Northern Ireland Railways (NIR) has signed a contract securing the purchase of 21 new train carriages.
Representing an investment of £50 million by the Department for Infrastructure, the move marks a major milestone for NIR.
The official contract signing was held at the Adelaide Maintenance Facility in Belfast on Thursday afternoon.
Chris Conway, Translink Group Chief Executive, said it was essential to provide much needed capacity to cope with increasing customer demand.
“This is great news and another very exciting step in the development of Northern Ireland’s rail network. Their introduction will also help deliver the ambitions of the draft Programme for Government to increase the use of public transport and active travel,” he said.
“Passenger numbers have grown by more than 130% in the last 12 years, reaching 15m last year, the highest in Northern Ireland Railways’ 50-year history. This has followed the introduction of new rail fleet, infrastructure investment and service and timetable enhancements alongside a continued focus on improving the overall customer experience.
“These 21 new carriages will allow us to build on this success and increase capacity, with around 1,400 additional seats, operating more six-carriage trains on busy routes at key times of the day.”
The first of the new carriages, which are being supplied by Spanish manufacturer CAF, is due to be delivered in 2021.
“With a three-year lead time we would expect to start to take delivery of the new carriages during 2021 with the last sets planned to go into passenger service in Autumn 2022 following testing and commissioning,” Mr Conway continued.
“We are pleased to once again work in partnership with international market leaders CAF after exercising an option within the original Class 4000 train procurement contract to purchase additional intermediate carriages. They will meet the very latest standards in comfort and quality and be compatible with our current fleet.”
Welcoming the announcement, Katrina Godfrey, Permanent Secretary of the Department for Infrastructure, said: “Reflecting the aim of improving wellbeing for all, which drives the work of all departments, DfI is committed to increasing the use of public transport and encouraging people to consider active travel options. To deliver that increase, we need to have the right infrastructure and facilities in place.
“The demand for rail services has grown in recent years with some services operating at near capacity, particularly at peak times of the day. We need to make sure we continue to invest in the network to build on this success. The department is therefore pleased to invest £50 million in the 21 new carriages which will provide additional capacity, greatly enhance the passenger experience and encourage more commuters to make the switch to public transport.”