Transport Minister Conor Murphy has been urged to press ahead with introducing hourly trains between Dublin and Belfast.
The minister says there are not enough trains to provide an hourly service for the Enterprise and it would cost £40m to bring the trains up to the correct level.
Responding to an Assembly written question by the SDLP’s Thomas Burns, he said Northern Ireland Railways has been in talks with its southern counterpart Iarnrod Eireann about ways to support an hourly service.
Mr Murphy said: “An hourly Enterprise service is not available at peak times because the additional rolling stock required to run such services is not available. NI Railways have been in discussion with DRD and Iarnrod Eireann about alternative rolling stock options to support an hourly frequency.
“To provide hourly service frequencies, the Enterprise train fleet would need to be increased from three operational trains to six operational trains. The cost of the additional trains would be in the region of £40m and operating costs would be circa £5m per year, which could be partially offset by the increase in passenger revenue.”
“These costs would be shared between Iarnrod Eireann and NI Railways or passed to the respective departments in terms of increased Public Service Obligations.
“This is a significant budgetary issue.”
A department spokeswoman said that, at a recent North South Ministerial Council, Minister Murphy and southern counterpart Noel Dempsey have agreed that they hope to progress this. “This would be the first stage in a process to support an hourly frequency at peak times.”
Mr Burns stated it said a lot that there isn’t an hourly service.
“There’s a train that leaves Dublin at seven and the one before that is 16.50 — there is a gap there and the seven o’clock one is always very packed. You could be standing on that train for a long, long distance. It’s ridiculous that you could be asked to stand the whole way from Dublin to Newry.”