Travelling by train in Northern Ireland with Northern Ireland Railways (NIR)

Train travel in Northern Ireland is a convenient and painless way of getting around the region, where available.

Note: This page covers traveling by train in Northern Ireland.  For Irish Rail intercity trains in the Republic of Ireland, please visit our dedicated info page for intercity trains in the Republic of Ireland.

Where do the trains run in Northern Ireland?

Northern Ireland’s mainline network begins at the Irish border just north of Dundalk. It runs northwards through the major towns of Newry, Portadown, Lisburn, and terminates at Great Victoria Street in Belfast city centre.

Backtrack down the line south from Great Victoria Street and the railway splits off to the east, passing through City Hospital, Botanic, and Belfast Lanyon Place, the city’s second main station. The line then crosses the River Lagan, and splits once again eastwards to the seaside town of Bangor on the northeastern coast, and westwards to Larne, Coleraine, Portrush, and Derry/Londonderry.

There are no services to the western areas of NI, which has long been a big bone of contention for many living in the area. If you want to visit the west without a car, your best bets are the Goldliner intercity bus services operated by Translink.

Who operates the railways in Northern Ireland?

Passenger railway services are operated by Northern Ireland Railways (NIR), a subsidiary of Translink – the public corporation operating public transport in NI.

Translink's website can be accessed at https://www.translink.co.uk/
For timetables, please visit Translink's webpage for timetables.

Buying your tickets

There are 4 ways to buy your NIR tickets – buying them at the stations, buying them onboard the trains, buying them on the mLink app, and buying them on Translink’s website. Translink accepts only Pound Sterling for Northern Ireland Railways ticket purchases.

Buying your tickets at the train stations

Most major NIR stations feature a manned ticket hall. If you need a ticket, simply walk up to the counter and purchase one from the counter staff. The staff are also able to advise you about the discounted rates available for the day.

Both cash and card/contactless payments are accepted. Apple Pay and Google Wallet can also be used to pay for your ticket.

Buying your tickets onboard the trains

Not all NIR stations are manned, and a large number of the smaller halts and stations feature only platforms and a waiting shelter. In those cases, you have to approach the conductor onboard the train to purchase a ticket.

Note: Trying to ride without a ticket is an exercise in futility as the conductor will find you.  Fare evasion can result in you having to pay a GBP 50 penalty fare, plus the value of the full single fare of the journey you’re taking.  Click here to read more about fare evasion on Translink services.
Extra Note: If you hopped on the train at any of the Belfast stations for a short ride to Great Victoria Street or between the Belfast stations, there is a chance that the conductor may not be able to make their ticket rounds due to the very short distance.   Ticket checks are instead performed at the exit to the station hall, where you now have the opportunity to inform the counter staff that you were unable to purchase a ticket onboard.  You will then be able to purchase the ticket for your short journey right there and then.  NIR staff are generally understanding (simply name the stop where you boarded your train), and in these cases being honest is much better than being a fare evader.

If dealing with paper tickets aren’t your thing, an alternative is Translink’s very own mLink app. This is a very simple app that allows you to purchase train and bus tickets for services throughout NI. It also saves you from having to explain to NIR staff that you were unable to purchase your ticket onboard the train.

The mLink app can be downloaded from both the Apple App Store and Google Play. You’ll need to sign up for an account with the app to be able to use it.

If you’d like, you can also purchase your train tickets on the Translink website. Simply enter your origin & destination stations and your date & time of travel, and the website will present you with a selection of scheduled services.

Note: If you’re travelling on the Enterprise service from Belfast to Dublin, you have to purchase your ticket from the Translink website, not the Irish Rail website.

Once you’ve picked a service, you will then have the option of picking a ticket of your choice. Make the online payment and you will then receive your ticket. Simply show the ticket to the conductor onboard, just like any other train ticket.

Note: If you’re travelling on the same day to a destination within NI, consider buying your ticket on the mLink app or at the station instead.  NIR tickets do not run out, and so there is generally no real need to book a ticket way ahead of time.  This does not apply to the popular Enterprise service between Belfast and Dublin, as a seat reservation is required and tickets do run out.
For more information on the various types of tickets and discounted fares offered by Translink, visit https://www.translink.co.uk/usingtranslink/ticketsandtravelcards.

How are the trains like?

NIR operates a fleet of smart looking, modern diesel multiple units. These are classified internally as NIR Class 3000 and NIR Class 4000 respectively. The Class 3000 sets were first delivered in 2003, whereas the Class 4000s saw their first deliveries in 2010 with additional extension carriages ordered and delivered in 2021.

All trains have identical interiors. They are generally clean and comfortable, and feature accessibility conveniences like an accessible toilet, and a dedicated space for wheelchair users.

For more information on accessibility on NIR trains, please visit Translink's Accessibility Guide webpage, or  Translink's Rail Accessibility webpage.

I personally like the seats on NIR trains. They are decently comfortable for the longer distance services to Derry/Londonderry, and Portrush, and in general are a good fit for NIR’s hybrid commuter-intercity services. Note that there are no seat reservations onboard, so getting a good seat is on a first come first serve basis.

Can I bring bicycles onboard?

Yes, you can, except on weekday services before 0930am.

There are dedicated spaces for bicycles onboard the carriages at one of the ends of the trains – look out for the bicycle icon or just ask the conductor. These only allow a maximum of 4 full sized bicycles, and are on a first come first serve basis.

There are no limits placed on foldable bicycles.

For more information on bringing your bicycles onboard, please visit Translink's conditions of carriage webpage.

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