New Belfast-Dublin Enterprise timetable proposed from 21 Jan 2016: earlier start, longer journeys

Translink Enterprise train logoThe proposed new Belfast-Dublin Enterprise train timetable has been published. From a weekday perspective:

  • A 06:15 service will now get Belfast passengers into Dublin for 08:41 (replacing the 06:50-0904 service).
  • Timetable consistency with all other services leaving Belfast every two hours at five past the hour, and leaving Dublin at ten past the hour.
  • The last train from Belfast to Dublin in the evening will no longer be at 21:15, but instead will be a much earlier 20:05.

Enterprise Train timetables 1998 2015 2016 bus

New Enterprise Trains have been introduced into service over the past few weeks.

The timetable changes are partly due to changes in DART services which are becoming more frequent (every 10 minutes, rather than every 15). The Enterprise shares track with these local services, making the journey into Dublin congested and contested.

A few minutes have been padded onto the end of the Enterprise train services to make most journeys two hours fifteen minutes long. It’s still faster than taking the bus, but only just.

In fact the 10:05 train from Belfast reaches Dublin Connolly at 12:20, while the 10:00 bus gets on stand in the Dublin City bus station at 12:10, five minutes faster. Though the train has food, a bar and power sockets at very seat.

Update – a few people have been asking whether Enterprise services have got slower over the years. The Web Archive has been storing copies of Translink’s website since late 1998. I’ve updated the table above with the earliest timetable I could find. In short, services are taking 10 minutes longer than they used to.

Translink are consulting on the new timetable and would love to hear your feedback.

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  • Muskerry

    About 10 years ago I used to take the train to Belfast from Dublin regularly. However at least for 1 in 3 of the return journeys back to Dublin, some joker would ring in with a bomb alert, which meant that we had to get a bus from Belfast to Newry train station before boarding the train.

    All this before the motorway was completed from Dublin to the border. Now on the odd occasion that I go to Belfast, I drive. I can go when I want, come back when I want and be joker-free!

  • If I can be reliably in 20 min earlier in the am and quite willing for a slightly longer journey. Closer to a regular start of business in Belfast – although I wonder why Translink/Irish Rail think that business starts far later in Belfast than Dublin (based on the first train of the day ;-)) Looking forward to trying one of the refurbished trainsets.

  • Brian O’Neill

    I was a regularly user of the Enterphrise about 15 years ago. I remember the 8am service used to get into Dublin at 9:50am. Or is my memory playing tricks on me? It seems they have just changed the timetable to reflect the slowing down of the service.

  • chrisjones2

    …and cheaper

  • The new trains are lovely (though I only experience them between Belfast and Lisburn!)

  • Your memory’s not playing tricks. But the train track in around Dublin probably has a lot more services running on it.

  • mickfealty

    Has anyone experienced variable speeds on the line?

  • Neil

    If you were to drive and aim to arrive at the same time as the train you’d have to do an average of 42 miles an hour.

  • AndyB

    The 21:15 is a temporary timetable fix to make up for the refurbishment of one Enterprise set – the IE 22k operating the 0735 ex Dublin would otherwise end up in Belfast after the 1900 ex Dublin, and NIR staff can’t operate that type of train. Until the refurbishment began, it was the 2010 or so ex Belfast.

    The 0615 has some very unfortunate pathing. 3 minutes behind the previous stopping service as it arrives in Dublin, and only 6 minutes ahead of the next stopper.

  • AndyB

    As in quicker one day, slower the next? There is always the potential for that depending on delays in the DART and Dublin commuter services – any service as intense as 10 minutes will be even more sensitive to knock-on delays, and 15 minutes is very sensitive as it is.

    It’s worth noting that this is the first substantive change to the Monday-Saturday service since the new Enterprise service was launched in 1997. There have been a pile of changes to timings north of the border due to the completion of the track relay between Lisburn and Belfast Central, and the extra stop in Lisburn for most services.

  • AndyB

    @leftofcentre:disqus Also, the 0800 used only to stop at Portadown on its way south. The stops at Newry and Dundalk were added some years ago, which slowed it down substantially.

  • Catcher in the Rye

    Brian, yes this is correct. This was around 2001/02, and it slowly began to deteriorate in terms of timing after that.

    AndyB would be the expert but I understand that as well as congestion on the Dublin end there are track problems at various points around Lurgan and Newry that cause speed restrictions.

  • Catcher in the Rye

    What really annoys me about this is that Translink were obviously involved in this draft timetable but didn’t bother to publish it up here. On the other hand, we’re finally getting more consistent departure times. Long overdue.

    In terms of who is causing the delay, by looking at the proposed timetable more closely we can see where the delay is actually being added. I had a quick look at the first three services out of Belfast on weekdays.

    Old Belfast-Newry-Dublin


    The Belfast-Newry time is between 54 and 57 minutes. Newry-Dublin varies from 66-72 minutes.

    Belfast-Newry-Dublin :


    The Belfast-Newry time is slightly slacked to between 56 and 57 minutes but the worst case is unchanged. However, Newry-Dublin is now between 79 and 89 minutes.

    Track improvements in NI could probably shave 5-10 minutes off the Belfast-Newry time but the time on the southern side of the border will continue to be woeful until they do something about congestion on the DART line between Dublin Connolly and Malahide.

  • Catcher in the Rye

    this is just a tad of an exaggeration. Substitute buses happened but to suggest that 33% of all services were effected is ridiculous.

  • Brian O’Neill

    Why would they do this? You would imagine there would be enough demand for a direct non stop service.

  • AndyB

    The straight answer is yes, there is enough demand for a direct non-stop service. However, there is also high demand for the extra stops – Newry is obvious, but if there is capacity on a given service, Irish Rail also have to use the Enterprise service to plug gaps in the commuter service.

  • AndyB

    @leftofcentre:disqus Knockmore-Lurgan needs to be dealt with – the 1990s programme omitted this section as it had been relaid relatively recently, so it’s now overdue (subject to funding as usual!)

    I haven’t seen a Weekly Notice for several years, so I’m not aware of what temporary speed restrictions are in force in the Newry area – this part of the line was fully relaid. There is a permanent speed restriction on the curve through Poyntzpass, and perhaps also still at Scarva.

    Most of the problems relate to congestion around DART services, as well as the extra stops I noted below. An extra stop can add several minutes to a train schedule, between braking time, station dwell time, and acceleration back up to line speed.

    Quadrupling the track between Howth Junction/Donaghmede and Ossory Road would solve the problem, but Irish Rail faces a political situation even more toxic than NIR. The money needs to be found in order to make the Enterprise and outer suburban services more reliable, but I wouldn’t hold my breath.

  • murdockp

    Another example of the absence of long term strategy.

    The goal should be a train service from belfast to dublin in an hour.

    Belfast – Dublin 107miles
    Birmingham to London 122 miles – 1 Hr 13.

    We need greater vision and a high speed rail strategy. Imagine the transformation of the economies both sides of the border.

    Whilst we are at it a tunnel from dublin to wales makes sense too, if it cost £20bn, it would be money well spent. They will sped this sort of dough bailing out banks, but not on economy transformation,

  • Catcher in the Rye

    Quadrupling is the long term permanent fix to this problem, but it will be very expensive due to the way a lot of private residential property is quite close to the line for much of its length especially south of Howth Jct.

    But there are short term things they could do. Bringing the loop platform into service at Clongriffin would surely be one of them, especially if the Down line could be resignalled there for bidirectional running. It looks like implementing a similar arrangement at Raheny would be possible without too much in the way of compulsory purchasing.

    Wouldn’t (he asked, rhetorically) the Irish government be much better spending money on that – as a way of enhancing cross border services as well as improving their own regional commuter train services – than sending cash up North for road expansion projects in the hinterlands ?

  • AndyB

    Yes, but the last analysis the NTA did was somehow biased against rail. It appears they haven’t learned a single lesson from the 70 years CIE has existed.

  • Catcher in the Rye

    the original Enterprise, a steam train in 1947, was a non-stop service. If memory serves it did the trip in 2hr30 or thereabouts (and the RPSI’s heritage Steam Enterprise service achieves a similar timing!). Food for thought in that we haven’t really moved that far on from the days of steam ..

  • Reader

    If you want that sort of speed you need to have no intermediate stops. Then you need not to be sharing a line with any other stopping trains.

  • Couldn’t lay my hands on it directly but how granular is the ridership data available by stop and by service. Am presuming this is public data – just can’t seem to find it. Any pointers to availability to answer questions based on evidence.

  • murdockp

    not eveny train, Birmingham has one in four high speed, I guess we need every second one.

    it is leap of faith stuff, but interconnected cities is what this is about.

  • AndyB

    The extra stops were added under pressure from locals – Lisburn being a city was their catalyst, rather than having to take a local train to Portadown, but Newry had a rather stronger case for the 0800 and 1800 trains to stop there to pick up passengers, which they most certainly do.

    I fear that non-stop expresses won’t come back until additional rolling stock is purchased – and in the absence of political will to fund this plus the diesel and staff required from either the Assembly or the Irish Government, we needn’t hold our breath.

  • Sir Rantsalot

    I also used it from when it started years ago. I’m nearly sure it used to be 90 mins or close to it. It was way faster than driving. The price was much cheaper too.

  • Sir Rantsalot

    It would be interesting to see a study on the cost of upgrading the infrastructure to provide a faster service Belfast to Dublin. Then compare that to money wasted on sectarian ‘community’ nonsense, advisors, too many MLAS, and any other wasteful thing that goes on in the local government. Even after all these years of normal politics, it’s rare to see any party argue facts and figures.

  • Christopher Mc Camley

    There really aren’t enough passengers for non-stop in either direction. The daily commuters from Newry, Dundalk and Drogheda help keep the service viable.

  • ted hagan

    I remember relaxing and having a carriage almost to myself on a trip to Belfast one Friday afternoon. At Drogheda about 20 drunken members of a hen party got on. The rest of the journey seemed to take about nine hours. Please God, never again.

  • Sir Rantsalot

    Lol that happened to me too a couple of years back.

  • TruthToPower

    There’s no godly reason why a train can’t take just 30 minutes to travel between the two cities. Ever try using public transport to visit Cork from NI? you’d think the island was the size of China for how long and troublesome it took

    The frank truth of the matter is, we are just a second rate people with second rate administrators and we deserve what we get and don’t get. Weill never have the snazzy and efficient trams of Prague or public transport of London or Italy( yes, Italy. It’s shambolic shop front betrays a v canny and efficient mindset underneath the apparent mayhem. As Bill Bryson said, this the 4th biggest economy of the world : just imagine what they could achieve if they were just a 1/4 as efficient as Germany: masters of the universe no doubt) because we are substandard in outlook, vision and intelligence

  • Barneyt

    I think the existing traffic on the line is a hinderance to high speed. Two tracks…one north, one south. Limits the options.

  • Barneyt

    The arrival time is more business friendly. You stand a chance of getting to the office before 9 if it runs to time and you work centrally. Getting back home on the 17:10 is still going to require an early exit….or a very late home time.

    The service will not really improve until we have a new infrastruture and a high speed line, however its hard to justify the cost. The Enterprise and what it hopes to be conflicts with the regular train services that run mostly separately on each side of the border. Applying a fast cross border “luxury” service on top of the existing regular service just does not fit.

    What is the solution? Not sure. Most of those going to dublin live south of Drogheda. For this reason, demand will remain and the clog will continue as this is where the congestion is. Turning down the Japanese venture to build a Dublin underground was a mistake and no doubt my now it would be paid for. This service could have unclogged the overground rail and allowed for faster more frequent inter city services.

    Most of the work in Dublin is out west, or south of the city, and this is not a fun place to get to from Dundalk even. Dundalk to Sandyford takes about 2.5 – 3 hours (early Dundalk commuter, 30 25 minute hike to Luas line and then 30 minutes on Luas. Its similar getting to Park West where a lot of companies reside. The car wins every time. At least you can get a seat.

  • Barneyt

    Hi, its been getting into Dublin at 9:04 for about 10 years. Still not a work friendly time.

  • Barneyt

    Thats the 8am from Dundalk 🙂