Climate Action

The Challenge

The Government’s Climate Change Action Plan published in 2019 noted ‘The accelerating impact of greenhouse gas emissions on climate disruption must be arrested. The window of opportunity to act is fast closing, but Ireland is way off course. As economic recovery has taken hold, it is clear the link between prosperity and emissions has not been broken…... By 2040 the population of Ireland is expected to grow by over 1 million to 5.7 million people.

Emissions graph

This growth, along with other National Planning Framework growth projections on the economy and employment rates, will drive greater demand for transport across various modes, with increased movement of people and goods. While this is a sign of a vibrant economy, it intensifies our decarbonisation challenge, in particular as transport accounted for 19.8% of Ireland’s greenhouse gases in 2017….. our carbon intensity in the (transport) sector, at 2.6 MtCO2eq./head, is well above the EU average with Ireland emitting 40% more CO2eq./head’.
View EPA report

Reducing carbon intensity in the transport sector requires a shift from over reliance on the car to more sustainable transport modes. CIE and its partners are working to deliver a service that meets this growing challenge, whilst providing sustainable transport options and achieving decarbonisation of public transport.  

SEAI Key Statistics Central Statistics Office report “Environmental Indicators Ireland 2019” showed that in 2017, Ireland had the third highest emissions of greenhouse gases per capita in the EU at 13.3 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent per capita. Ireland’s emissions were 51% higher than the EU28 average of 8.8 tonnes. The transport share of greenhouse gas emissions doubled from an average annual 10% in 1990-1994 to 20% in 2017.

The Citizens Assembly made a number of recommendations in the area of climate change including

  • Recommendations from the Citizen’s Assembly for Climate Change showed overwhelming support for an integrated sustainable transport system: 93% of the Members recommended that the number of bus lanes, cycling lanes and park and ride facilities should be greatly increased in the next five years, and much greater priority should be given to these modes over private car use.

  • 96% of the Members recommended that the State should immediately take many steps to support the transition to electric vehicles.

  • 92% of the Members recommended that the State should prioritise the expansion of public transport spending over new road infrastructure spending at a ratio of no less than 2-to-1 to facilitate the broader availability and uptake of public transport options with attention to rural areas.

Investing in Sustainable Travel

The Government’s National Development Plan through to 2027 identifies a total investment in public transport initiatives of €8bn. Transport and spatial planning frameworks for Ireland are focussed on achieving modal shift from the private car to public transport, to offset rising congestion and the negative environmental impacts of our current over dependency on car based travel. CIE is working with its partners to deliver transport initiatives which will grow capacity and offer sustainable transport, to a greater portion of the population. The following table illustrates the elements of the plan in which the CIÉ Group will play a significant role and will enable the provision of:

Project Estimated Cost
DART expansion €2.0 bn
Dublin bus connects €2.0 bn
Cork bus connects €0.2 bn
Galway bus connects €0.2 bn
Total €4.4 bn


The DART expansion will grow customer capacity and train service frequency, delivering a more efficient transport system and enabling more people to make sustainable travel choices.  The expansion has the potential to reduce commuter’s carbon footprint and prevent chronic road congestion, helping to meet the goals set out in the state’s Climate Action Plan.

Graph passenger capacity into city centre

The cumulative network effect of DART Expansion, subject to Government authorisation and funding, will increase customer capacity from circa 26,000 customers per hour per direction to circa 52,000 passengers per hour per direction by 2027 - 2028, with capacity to increase to a peak of 70,000 passengers per hour per direction thereafter, subject to further fleet procurement.

DART Expansion will transform train services with customers being less constrained by timetables and instead being provided a “turn up and go” mode of transport throughout the day.  The expansion of services is at the core of our strategy to deliver more sustainable transport and deliver on the three pillars of sustainable development:

Investment in bus services through the National Transport Authority (NTA) roll out of Bus Connect, will see the level of bus services in the Dublin network increase by 22% as a result of the Dublin Area Bus Network redesign.  The redesigned bus network will provide a planned, higher capacity, more understandable network, delivering an improved bus system for the Dublin region.

The redesign of the network was a key measure of the Transport Strategy for the Greater Dublin Area 2016-2035. It is among the measures in Project Ireland 2040 and is included as an action point in the Climate Action Plan.


What CIÉ Are Doing  

The CIÉ Group plays an integral role in delivering a national strategy for decarbonisation and is prioritising its climate change responsibilities.

The more people who substitute from the car to public transport, the greater the scope to reduce transport emissions. As Ireland’s largest public transport operator, the CIÉ Group works closely with the NTA and the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport to ensure the public transport offering is attractive to travellers. The strategy to encourage passenger growth is focusing on providing a service which is accessible, convenient and affordable.

The initiatives underpinning this strategy include:

  • New services and greater capacity on existing services
  • Improvements in punctuality and reliability of services
  • Investment in modern fleet of trains and buses
  • Free wifi and charging points onboard buses and trains
  • Real Time passenger information
  • Leap card payment system and associated discounts
  • Tax savings with Annual travel passes

However, even though carbon emissions per person are reduced by in excess of 80% when using public transport compared with the use of private motor vehicles our efforts go well beyond encouraging and facilitating greater public transport usage.

Graphic comparing average irish car vs CIE companies passenger km
The CIÉ Group will continue to engage with stakeholders and participate in a number of fora including the DTTaS Low Emission Vehicle Taskforce, the DTTaS Energy forum with Aegis Bodies facilitated by SEAI and including the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment and the Irish Hydrogen Mobility Group.

The additional measures set out below show the actions we’ve taken to cut our emissions, to reduce our impact on the environment and ensure we help the country meet EU climate obligations.

Sustainable transport initiatives  


Fleet Modernisation

Supported by Project Ireland 2040, a number of fleet modernisation programmes are being implemented:  
  • Design and implementation of new hybrid power-packs for intercity railcars to reduce diesel use.  
  • No more diesel intercity rail cars will be ordered in the future by Iarnród Éireann.
  • The expansion of the fleet by 300 carriages will be electric or battery-electric hybrid resulting in 80% of all journeys on the network being made on non-diesel services.  This would see an estimated 40% reduction in emissions from rail services on the Drogheda, Maynooth, M3, and Hazelhatch lines. With electricity supply sources becoming more sustainable, it sets the rail services on course for emissions-free future, as well as generating reductions in noise.
  • Replacement programme of internal and external light fittings with LED variants.
Fuel and Technology Performance
  • Replacement of Diesel Multiple Unit Gearbox on intercity railcars leading to significant fuel savings.
  • Introduction of a train fuel monitoring system.
Driving Technology 
  • ‘Eco-driver’ - training for drivers  


Fleet Modernisation

Supported by Project Ireland 2040, a number of fleet modernisation programmes are being implemented:  In conjunction with the National Transport Authority (NTA), modernisation of the bus fleet is being implemented:
  • All recently acquired buses have Euro 6 standard engines.
  • The trial of nine hybrid electric buses has commenced with regenerative braking for improved fuel consumption.
  • With the assistance of the NTA, all future orders for urban buses will be for hybrid buses.
  • Replacement programme of internal and external light fittings with LED variants.
Fuel and Technology Performance
  • Installation of fuel management systems at depots and on fleet.
  • Enhanced energy monitoring and energy capacity rationalisation.
  • Trials of eco-driving technology for the fleet using on-board telematics.
Driving Technology 
  • ‘Eco-driver’ training for drivers combined with new eco-driving technology using on-board telematics.

Historically, the majority of energy consumption has come from diesel fuel and the volume of emissions from our internal combustion engines are proportionate to our fuel use. Emissions are also associated with the electrical consumption of the DART and general facilities management throughout the wider CIÉ Group.  Irish Rail have worked to reduce emissions by 46% from 2006. This has enabled an average annual carbon avoidance of 148,000 tonnes of CO2, with the total CO2 emissions falling to 177,000 tonnes for 2018.  CIÉ are proud to have achieved emission reductions greater than the sectoral target of 2020 energy efficiency targets, well ahead of plan.

This has been achieved through a number of initiatives and investments such as implementing auto-shutdown techniques, timetable, speed restrictions and by matching train size to passenger demand.