Irish Rail planning Dublin-Cork 'business express'
Iarnrod Eireann is planning to introduce a fast express business train next year between Dublin and Cork as part of efforts to get potential customers out of their cars and on to rail services.
The company is in direct competition with the motorway which has led to huge improvements in journey times.
However, Iarnrod Eireann chief executive David Franks said that a fast train, where customers also have access to free Wi-Fi allowing them to work on the move, could help entice more people to the service.
"We should be able to get people to Cork much more quickly to compete (with the motorway) and that means we need to improve line speeds," he told the Irish Independent.
"The vision I've got is to try and get the journey time down to Cork to two hours. Cork is critical because we're connecting the two major cities.
"What we've done at the moment is play with timetables, taking stops out of a service which is yielding improvements of up to 20 minutes. We're exploring the opportunity of a fast business train, in the short term, which will be more or less an express service."
Timetable changes introduced earlier this year on services between Dublin and Cork, Galway, Waterford, Limerick, Westport and Kerry have already resulted in drops of up to 20 minutes on some routes.
This is largely due to a more targeted maintenance programme across the rail network in recent years, particularly with the removal of speed restrictions on sections of the line at Kildare, Portarlington and Limerick Junction.
This allows trains to travel at a maximum of 160kmh – 40kmh faster than motorways – and removing stops from the service would help reduce journey times to just two hours. The new service is expected to be introduced next year.
Mr Franks said that he also wanted to operate more trains to Belfast, where there is currently only a train every other hour, and speed up services between the capital and Galway and Westport which have been "very good performers".
The AA said that a road journey between Heuston Station in Dublin and Kent Station in Cork takes two hours, 53 minutes.
By rail, the journey is between 2.30 and 2.45 hours, and it is hoped that further journey time reductions will help grow numbers.
The removal of further speed restrictions on other sections of the network are also planned, but a detailed timetable for the works and sourcing funding are still being worked on.