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Passport checks on cross-border trains in Ireland may be introduced

Translink's flagship Enterprise rail service
Translink's flagship Enterprise rail service

By Paul Melia

Northern Irish train drivers who work on cross-border services may need a licence allowing them to operate in the Republic in the event of a hard Brexit, a railways chief warned last night.

Passengers might also be subject to passport checks on the cross-border Enterprise between Dublin and Belfast, but are not expected to endure lengthy delays, according to Irish Rail chief executive Jim Meade.

If passport controls are required if Britain leaves the EU without a deal, they will likely take place on board.

Train drivers operating in EU member states are required to hold an EU driver licence, meaning a UK driver could work in France, for example, after the necessary training. But Northern Irish drivers would no longer have this certification if the UK leaves without a deal.

"Post a hard Brexit, that certification falls. They have a UK licence but in order to operate on our network they will need certification. It's not a huge issue. It's doable but it will involve effort and time," Mr Meade said.

He ruled out additional time for passport checks, which could increase journey times.

"Our plan is to not disrupt the service," he said. "A hard Brexit is a worry. We've had several discussions with Translink around how it would operate.

"If we have to have border checks, we would expect a methodology where customs officials come on board and do checks between stations.

"We won't provide time for border checks. We have said we don't see the benefit of building in a half-hour stop for customs checks. The experience in Europe is it's a hop-on hop-off."

Mr Meade added that Irish Rail was working with the Republic's Office of Public Works (OPW) about providing customs and inspection posts at Rosslare Europort to accommodate trucks coming off ships, truck parking, a dedicated border control point for live animals and a public office with staff accommodation.

It could take up to two years to provide the infrastructure, he said, but interim arrangements would be put in place.

"We're working with the OPW. It's taking a lot of time and planning and our intention is to keep the port open," he said.

"It has the potential to impact on business if we don't put in place arrangements. Long-term, we do need the facilities and there is an outline plan agreed."

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