Belfast and Dublin is connected by an express train branded as the “Enterprise” service. It is simultaneously Ireland’s only international train service, as well as the island’s flagship train service. More than any other mode of transportation on the island, the Enterprise is an important symbolic and physical link between both sides of the Irish border. a
Trains depart Belfast Lanyon Place Station (formerly known as Belfast Central Station) in Belfast, and terminate at Dublin Connolly station in central Dublin just north of the River Liffey. Most services call at 4 stations along the way – Portadown, Newry, Dundalk, and Drogheda.
The Enterprise trains consist of locomotive-hauled De Dietrich made carriages, which were based on the British Rail Class 373 sets built for the Eurostar services between London and Paris. The interiors were originally identical to the 1st generation Eurostar interiors, but have been refurbished for a more up to date look.
First posted 6 July 2017. Updated 15 March 2023.
Booking your tickets
The Enterprise service is jointly operated by Northern Ireland Railways (NIR) and Irish Rail. If you’re departing from stations in Northern Ireland, you have to buy your tickets from Translink’s website, whereas if you’re departing from stations in the Republic of Ireland, you have to buy your tickets from Irish Rail’s website.
Note: If you purchased your tickets from the Translink website and are departing from Belfast, remember to collect your actual printed tickets from the ticketing staff at Belfast Lanyon Place. If you are departing Dublin and purchased your tickets from the Irish Rail website, you can collect your tickets at any Irish Rail ticket machines by keying in your ticket's reference code.
Boarding and Departure from Belfast Lanyon Place
Belfast Lanyon Place is well connected to all train services in NI, with the sole glaring problem being that despite its original name of “Belfast Central”, it is not actually located centrally in Belfast. I recommend taking a bus or a cab to the station instead of walking.
Both Belfast Lanyon Place and Dublin Connolly will not allow you onto the platform to board the train ahead of the scheduled departure time. Passengers are kept waiting up until around 10-15 minutes before departure time, with very different experiences in Belfast and Dublin – In Dublin a waiting room with an abundance of chairs is provided; However in Belfast Lanyon Place there are no such amenities, and so you’ll end up queuing in front of the gate with all the other passengers until the gate is opened.
Once you get past the gate, simply follow the directions down onto the relevant platform. Trains generally travel to Dublin First Plus-first and locomotive last, with the reverse being true for the trip back to Belfast. The trains are hard to miss, but on some occasions the specially branded train sets are replaced by regular NIR/Irish Rail train sets.
I’ve personally not experienced late departures on the Enterprise, and the gates close 2 minutes before departure, so it goes without saying that you should not arrive late for your train nevertheless.
Cabin & Onboard Amenities in Standard Class
The interiors of the train went through a major refurbishment in 2015, and the result is a modern and dynamic looking cabin. The current interiors have purple and black as the main colours, but the ceiling panels unfortunately seem to be unchanged from the old Eurostar-esque interiors, and so can feel a bit dark.
Seat reservations are possible when booking on Irish Rail’s website, otherwise it is free seating for all. If you do have a seat reservation your name or ticket number would be displayed on the small LED bar above the seats, so as to ensure there isn’t any confusion.
Luggage racks are available near the doors for larger luggage, and the usual overhead racks are available as well for smaller bags. Seats also cannot be reclined, but are comfortable enough for the ride.
The Enterprise train sets also feature a buffet car onboard, accessible to all passengers. There is also a trolley service if you’re content with sitting at your seat for the entirety of your journey. Both Euros and Pound Sterling are accepted.
If you’re seated in First Plus, freshly made breakfast and lunch meals are available for purchase. These will be delivered to your seat.
Visit https://www.translink.co.uk/enterprisemenus to view the menus for the catering onboard the Enterprise service.
Note - If the dedicated Enterprise train sets are having technical faults, they are usually swapped out for Irish Rail intercity sets or NIR's own train sets. The latter does not have adequate luggage storage, catering, First Class, and may not even have adequate seating for all passengers. It makes for a disappointing experience when it happens, but unfortunately there is not much you can do.
The journey from Belfast to Dublin
The Enterprise service is one of the fastest on the island of Ireland, with a maximum speed of 160 km/h and an average operational top speed of 144 km/h. The ride is generally smooth and quick, and is a very pleasant experience.
The track alignment takes the train past the countryside, over the tall Craigmore Viaduct in Newry, before following the coast after Drogheda. This gives spectacular views especially on a sunny day, and is something you won’t get if you go by bus or car.
One of the highlights of the journey is the tall Boyne Viaduct going over the River Boyne in Drogheda. It provides great views of the city and surrounding areas, though operational wise it is a potential source of bottlenecks due to its single tracked layout.
Arrival into Dublin Connolly
Depending on your scheduled service, an average journey on the Enterprise takes approximately 2 hours and 15 minutes.
Dublin Connolly station is located north of the River Liffey, and is well connected with the rest of Dublin. The station serves DART and Commuter services, and is also a terminus for the Luas Red Line.
Note - You used to get a free ride into Dublin city centre on the DART with a valid Enterprise ticket, though only limited to Tara Street Station and Pearse Station. This does not appear to be available anymore.
Extra Note - On arrival in Belfast with a valid Enterprise ticket, you get a free travel into the city centre on any Metro Bus, Ulster Bus, and Glider G1 service. Please visit Irish Rail's Enterprise info page for more information.
The Enterprise is the most comfortable way to get to Dublin, but unfortunately it is not the most convenient. This is because Belfast Lanyon Place can be a pain to get to, and the timetabling has some weird timing. (Eg: The first train from Belfast on weekdays reaches Dublin at 9am, which means business travellers cannot use it as an option to travel for an early 9am meeting.)
The frequent train faults also has the effect of not maintaining a consistent brand image, as you may never know if you’re getting on an Irish Rail stock with tighter legroom, or a NIR train that does not have catering and First Class. This can be particularly annoying if you’ve purchased a First Plus ticket. Its speed has also been criticised, as the bus can be faster than the train. Plus, the buses start their journey at the Europa Bus Centre, which is a lot more conveniently accessed than Belfast Lanyon Place.
But as a whole, the Enterprise is actually a good service, and I personally prefer it over a bus ride any day.