Irish Rail's current fare structure and policy is outdated, inconsistent and designed to extract the maximum amount of cash from unsuspecting passengers. Owing to poor information passengers frequently end up paying more for the same journeys than they would if Irish Rail provided full information and proper staff training.
Rail Users Ireland has consistently highlighted the unfair and at times discriminatory fare structures adopted by Irish Rail. In 2008 Rail Users Ireland published a landmark document in Irish transport which for the first time actually described how Irish Rail work out your fare, or more to the point how different parts of Irish Rail charge different fares for the same journey.
This document has gone on to form a source of evidence in the review of Intercity Fares funded by the National Transport Authority and conducted by Booz & Company / MVA Consultancy. This review will result in a major change in the pricing and general structure of rail fares on Intercity journeys. Irish Rail was banned from increasing fares on long distance (70-80 miles or more) journeys until the outcome of this review is implemented. Despite multiple requests Irish Rail will not release a copy of its fares manual to Rail Users Ireland. It must be noted the UK rail fares manual is available to members of the public.
To help you navigate this mess we have provided some help in getting the best deal and also how to claim a refund. If you can't find the answers you need, let us know at @RailUsersIe on twitter or at email@example.com and we will do our best to help you out.
- Book Online
- Getting A Good Deal
- Why Are Student Tickets Sometimes More Expensive
- Fare Policy
- Common Problems
- Cheapest Fares at Booking Office
You can purchase tickets for most intercity services on-line and seat reservations are available on nearly all Dublin Cork/Belfast/Limerick/Galway/Waterford/Westport/Rosslare/Sligo services. Unlike the rest of mainland Europe reservations are not compulsory and approximately 50% of seats are available through the booking system.
- Go to http://www.irishrail.ie/
- Enter your start and destination stations and travel dates. Note use 'Dublin City Centre' if you need the Bus/Luas* to reach Dublin Heuston or Dublin Connolly
- Your return journey must be within 60 days of today
- Click on Search Reservations for x number of passengers
- Click Go
- You then select the train you want, note, not all trains/routes have reserved seats
- You then can optionally select the exact seat you want from those available
- As a rule of thumb when selecting seats the right end of the coach on the website point towards Dublin, except if you board in Waterford or Thomastown. This applies to all trains with first class, in other cases there is no way of knowing
* Valid on Red Luas line between Heuston and Busaras/Connolly/Georges Dock, 90 Bus City/Heuston and 145 Heuston-City-Leeson Street
Things to watch for, certain ticket types such as family tickets can't be booked online. Bookings can only be made where the starting station has a ticket vending machine to allow you to collect your tickets. If you see a message saying reservations are not possible it is likely that the station has no ticket machine or that the cash fare at the booking office is lower than the normal cash fare.
The website will work in all modern web browsers but may have difficulties with some smartphone devices. Rail Users Ireland receives intermittent reports that website freezes during the booking, if this is the case simply try again. It is important to ensure the page loads fully before you start to select a train/enter text. Click on the buttons, do not simply hit the return key.
The most frequent source of complaint is the verified by Visa/Mastercard requirement. Ensure you are using a modern web browser.
Collect tickets from any station (regardless of the one you choose during the booking) with a ticket vending machine or at main stations the booking office will also issue reservation tickets. You must have the booking reference code with you to collect your tickets and you may be asked for some proof of identity. Print a copy of the booking confirmation and bring it with you, you may use this confirmation as a ticket if the ticket machine is broken or station was locked up and you could not collect the ticket.
- All intercity services have discounted seats, this includes peak hour services even on bank holiday weekends
- DO NOT BOOK TO TRAVEL TODAY If you book on the same day as you are travelling a return fare is likely to be the same price as at the booking office
- Book at least 3 days in advance to avail of the cheapest fares
- Do not rely on the euro symbol to determine the total fare as a return fare will be less than the sum of the single fares in many cases.
- Remember if you hold an annual ticket issued by Irish Rail/Bus Eireann/Dublin Bus you are entitled to the discounted "Taxsaver Privilege" option
- Pay by Laser or Visa Debit
Irish Rail does not offer the ability to change a booking after a ticket is issued. You can either cancel and obtain a refund of 80% of the value of the ticket if cancelled the day before, or 50% on the day of travel. You must cancel before the departure time. Instructions as to how to cancel a booking are contained in the booking confirmation email.
It is a disgrace that you cannot change a booking even the sometimes less than passenger friendly low fare airlines can manage this, but not Irish Rail.
The rules do allow you to travel on another train on the same day as initial reservation but it must be first endorsed at the booking office. A 10 euro flat fee applies
If hold a Faircard or Student ticket you can travel on any train on the day you booked but obviously without the benefit of a reservation.
Discounted adult tickets are valid only on the train upon which they are booked. Student and Faircard tickets are full price are flexible and can be used on any train on the date printed on the ticket. You are still advised to get the tickets endorsed for the train you are now travelling on.
So if you are a student you have a choice, pay the cheap fare and lose flexibility or pay the full fare and retain the ability to change your plans at no cost.
Irish Rail is free to change the online fare structure and pricing provided the fares remain less than or equal to the maximum fares approved by the National Transport Authority. Irish Rail's fare system is complex and outdated and does not offer value to passengers making single journeys or journeys which require a change between two routes. Rail Users Ireland has been invited to take part in the review of Intercity Fares funded by the National Transport Authority and conducted by Booz & Company / MVA Consultancy. Some details on the current fare structure and its problems is available here
If you can't find the answers you need, let us know at @RailUsersIe on twitter or at firstname.lastname@example.org
- I want to collect my tickets from a different station
You can collect your tickets from any Irish Rail station which has a ticket vending machine. Full list of stations where collection is possible click here
- The station is locked up or ticket machine is broken and I can't collect my tickets
Provided you have a printout of the booking confirmation you are entitled to travel. If any Irish Rail official refuses you access to the train or attempts to issue a fine or a normal ticket, remain calm and be sure to get the officials name/id number (they must display this) contact Rail Users Ireland and we will make sure you are refunded or get the fine struck out. You should collect the tickets during your journey if your journey requires a change en-route
- My journey required a change and I missed the connection because train was late
In these circumstances continue journey by any reasonable combination of trains. You may be entitled to a refund under Irish Rail's customer charter if the delay reaching your final destination is more than 60 minutes. Find out more here
- My train is cancelled or breaks down en-route and we have to change trains
If for any reason within Irish Rail (or Northern Ireland Railways) control your train is cancelled or breaks down you no longer have been provided with the service you booked and you are entitled to a full refund
- I ended up standing
You are entitled to a full refund if your reservation is not honoured
- I had a first class reservation but there was no first class section on the train
You are entitled to a full refund even if you got a seat in standard class
- I travelled on a different train to the one I booked
You must under the terms and conditions present the ticket at the booking office before travel and pay the surcharge, unless the booking office is closed, then you pay on the train. The surcharge is 10 euro unless your ticket is a full priced ticket (i.e. bought online same day of travel). Surcharge does not apply to student or faircard tickets (that's why they are sometimes more than the discounted adult price). Above all else make sure your ticket is endorsed for the new train, if it isn't you could be fined 100 euro