Iarnród Éireann has confirmed it will commence the resumption of on-board catering services from early April.

Tea or coffee, which will you choo-se?

It’s been more than 3 years but the snack trolley on the Cork-Dublin train is coming back.

Iarnród Éireann confirmed yesterday, Wednesday, that it will commence the resumption of on-board catering services from early April on the Cork to Dublin route.

Carriage Food Services, which is a sister company of CCSL (N), who currently also provide catering services on board the Dublin to Belfast Enterprise service under a separate contract, will provide a trolley service on selected services on the Cork to Dublin route from early April, building to all Cork-Dublin services within weeks.

In tandem, Iarnród Éireann will: • proceed with a full procurement process for catering services across the Intercity network • progress a pilot for catering vending machines on selected trains. If successful and progressed further, vending machines would be intended to be complementary to on-board trolley services • work to identify further opportunities to enhance station retail and catering facilities.

An Iarnród Éireann spokesperson said: “We have been as keen as our customers to see on-board catering resume, and are delighted to be in a position to do so with this interim provision. We also believe that the success of the interim service will ensure that some of the inflated costs being quoted for full catering provision across our Intercity network will be reduced through the full procurement process.”

Catering services were suspended arising from Covid-19 restrictions for 2 years from February 2020 to February 2022. Upon the lifting of face covering regulations in February 2022, it sought a restoration of services from the incumbent supplier RailGourmet. However, RailGourmet was not in a position to resume services due to costs and staffing issues and withdrew from the contract in May 2022.

Since then, Iarnród Éireann said it engaged with market providers to restore an on-board service but costs and staffing issues resulted in providers quoting prices of many multiples of the previous contract to restore full services. Within Iarnród Éireann’s current funding profile, and under public procurement regulations, this was not possible to achieve, the compnay said. It then engaged with suppliers on interim, partial options to conform with funding and procurement requirements.

While a partial service across all routes was considered, the requirement for multiple catering base facilities and a more dispersed workforce across all routes again saw this exceed available funding, the company said.

It said the interim measure of resuming Cork to Dublin on-board catering ensures it can maximise the number of customers who can avail of catering within the funding profile and procurement regulation