Irish Rail considering installing vending machines on trains 

A train at the platform at Kent Station, Cork. On-board trolley services were withdrawn as a result of the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020.

Irish Rail is considering installing vending machines on inter-city rail services to enable passengers to buy food and drink on trains following the suspension of on-board catering services three years ago. Food Cooler Box

Irish Rail considering installing vending machines on trains 

The State-owned railway company is examining the use of vending machines on its mainline rail network as an option to complement the possible return of on-board trolley services which were withdrawn as a result of the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic in early 2020.

However, an Irish Rail spokesperson said vending machines were not being seen as an alternative to the return of a trolley service on inter-city trains.

Passengers can currently only buy food and drink on board the Enterprise service between Dublin and Belfast where catering services resumed last November, including full dining facilities on some trains.

Documents obtained under freedom of information legislation show Irish Rail informed the National Transport Authority last year that it had gone to the market to find a replacement provider of catering services after the existing provider experienced staffing issues and sought increased costs.

However, Irish Rail management subsequently told the NTA last November that there had been “multiple attempts” to seek an alternative provider of bar and trolley services but it had received “over-budget responses from the market.” 

The company blamed the significant increase in bids submitted as part of a tender process on “labour costs, supply costs, and risk appetite.” As a result, Irish Rail said it was looking at other options, including the use of on-board vending machines.

However, it admitted that the use of such equipment would cause a safety consideration.

A spokesperson added: “It’s not as simple as putting a vending machine in a station. There would have to be mechanical changes to the train.” 

The NTA instructed Irish Rail management to provide “a suitable response” as it said it was “unlikely that a catering service can be found at a price that the NTA/Irish Rail would be willing to pay". 

Irish Rail said last year that it hoped to be able to provide a trolley service on its intercity network as it was a nice aspect of rail travel that attracted more people to use its trains.

Asked for an update on its plans for a resumption of catering services, a spokesperson said Irish Rail expected to make an announcement very shortly about “some level of a return of trolley services". 

The spokesperson confirmed that the company was not looking at bringing back full dining car facilities on any more routes in the near future and was not considering operating trolley services using its own staff.

Last week, Cork TD Thomas Gould said Irish Rail should run its own trolley service in the absence of a private operator being available to do it.

"It’s 2023 — we need to offer a better service and the people want it," he said, insisting that basics such as water should be available for customers. 

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Irish Rail considering installing vending machines on trains 

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