Published Tuesday, 18 February 2014
The Enterprise train, which travels from Central Station to Connolly Station. (© UTV)
A report on future investment in the flagship cross-border rail service during the next 20 years is due to be published soon.
Northern Ireland operator Translink is making progress on track upgrades, Regional Development Minister Danny Kennedy said.
"The objective of this package would be to deliver a 90-minute journey time and hourly frequency on the Enterprise service," he said.
Trains on the service are jointly operated by Translink and Iarnród Éireann, taking passengers to and from Central Station in Belfast and Connolly Station, Dublin.
The cross-border link was launched by government ministers from Dublin and Belfast in 1997.
At present, connections between Belfast and Dublin can take more than two hours.
A consultation paper released by Mr Kennedy's department last year on the future of the line revealed that the number of passengers using the service between Belfast and Dublin has dropped by 22% over the past decade.
That was blamed on factors including recent economic conditions, recent road infrastructure improvements and loss of passengers due to the Malahide Bridge collapse.
In 2012-13, Enterprise saw passenger growth of over a tenth, with discounted online fares and benefits such as free on board wifi continuing to prove extremely popular with customers, a Translink spokeswoman has said.
Mr Kennedy told SDLP Northern Ireland Assembly member John Dallat: "Translink and Iarnrod Eireann are liaising in order to take forward a major overhaul of the existing Enterprise trains."
He expressed confidence that the required £12m funding will be secured from the EU and other sources.
"When this project is complete it is expected that there will be considerable improvement to the reliability of the service as well as to the aesthetics of the trains," the minister added.
A separate project, with expected costs of £1.2m, to carry out critical safety work to the trains is under way and is expected to be completed next year.
Translink is considering future upgrades of the track on the Belfast to Dublin line and progress is being made on efforts to upgrade the section between Knockmore and Lurgan in Co Armagh.
Last week, it was revealed that the Enterprise service is set to get a major multi-million pound upgrade.
Around £12m is to be spent refurbishing the four trains with new interiors, better access and a new booking system in order to improve the overall service.
The overhaul, funded by cash originally intended for the Narrow Water bridge project, is expected to begin later this year.
It is hoped the project will allow the train service to continue for the next 10 years.
© UTV News