About the Review
The vision of the Review is to provide a “high quality, sustainable and integrated railway for passengers and goods across the Island of Ireland”. The Review sets out six high-level goals which aim to use rail as effectively as possible to:
- contribute to decarbonisation;
- improve All Island connectivity between major cities;
- enhance regional accessibility;
- stimulate economic activity;
- encourage sustainable mobility; and
- achieve economic and financial feasibility.
It also considers the interactions between proposed improvements and existing, or planned, commuter rail services. It does not consider rail within major cities, which is subject to separate and established strategic planning processes.
The Review considers a long list of potential rail sector intervention solutions under four main categories:
- New lines;
- Infrastructure enhancements (of existing lines);
- Infrastructure enhancement in the form of new station; and
- Frequency improvements.
The AISRR Report presents the findings and 30 recommendations from this Review.
Progress to date
Officials from the Department for Infrastructure in Northern Ireland and the Department of Transport in Ireland have been working closely together, and with the appointed consultants, Arup, to undertake the Review and draft its Report.
Input has been sought throughout from the AISRR Project Management Group, which also includes representatives from the relevant governmental and transport stakeholders in both jurisdictions. A High-Level Steering Group is also in place to oversee the progress and direction of the Review.
The infographic outlines the progress of the AISRR to date.
Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) and Consultation
As required by Directive 2001/42/EC, and the legislation transposing this into national legislation in both jurisdictions, it was necessary to carry out screening to determine whether it was required in respect of the AISRR.
The SEA Applicability Screening process was completed in May 2023 and it was determined that a mandatory SEA was required.
- All-Island Strategic Rail Review - Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) Applicability Screening Report
Scoping was completed in relation to the SEA Environmental Report in June 2023 and the Draft SEA Report, and associated environmental assessments, were completed in July 2023.
The SEA Environmental Report, its associated environmental assessments, and the AISRR Draft Report were published for the purposes of public consultation on 25 July 2023. This decision was made by the Minister for Transport in Ireland and, in the absence of an Infrastructure Minister in Northern Ireland, by the Permanent Secretary for Infrastructure, under the terms of the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation etc) Act 2022 (as amended).
The consultation opened on Tuesday 25 July 2023 and closed on Friday 29 September 2023. 474 responses were received during this period, covering a wide range of subjects.
Following the conclusion of the AISRR SEA consultation, officials from both jurisdictions are working closely with Arup to analyse and consider the responses submitted in detail, with input from the AISRR Project Management Group. These comments will inform the finalising of the AISRR Report and its associated environmental reports.
It is currently anticipated that the report will be finalised in Spring 2024.
It is likely that the Minister for Infrastructure and the Northern Ireland Executive, as well as the Minister of Transport and Government in Ireland, will then be asked to approve the publication of the finalised report. Should there continue to be an absence of an Executive, approval will be considered taking into account the decision-making framework set out in the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation etc.) Act 2022 (as amended) or relevant legislation in place at the time.
The recommendations of the AISRR will provide an evidence-based framework to inform the future direction of travel for investment in the railways across the island. However, more work will be needed to test the feasibility and environmental impact of the recommended interventions and to secure the necessary funding before any projects can be implemented.