Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Rail Review: The Ireland-U.K. Enterprise

Looking to get from Dublin to Belfast, fast? You might be interested in the Enterprise train jointly operated by Irish national rail carrier Eirnrod Eireann and Northern Ireland's NI Railways.

We took the Enterprise in February. Gwen and I are always cost-conscious on our trips, but hotel rates were surprisingly low over Valentine's Day weekend, so I opted for First Plus seating at a premium of around €20 over standard €45 Enterprise Class tickets. After retrieving our prepaid tickets from the counter at Connoley Station, we boarded the train at 10:00 a.m. and settled into comfortable seats.

In First Plus, passengers who would like meals order off of menus--there is one for weekday travel and another for the weekends--so we each enjoyed full Irish breakfasts with tea. Unlike First Class on Amtrak's Acela, food is not included in the price of an Enterprise First Plus ticket, but the prices were comparable to what one would spend in town, and the quality was good if not outstanding.

There's also a Cafe Bar car on the Enterprise. We had no reason to visit it, but my understanding is that there are hot and cold snacks available as well as an assortment of beverages, and there's a snack trolley that passes through the Enterprise Class coaches.

Whichever ticket you have, of course, the view is free. En route from Dublin, we saw beaches, towns, and miles of green countryside.

We arrived at Belfast Central Station just after noon for a total trip time of a little over two hours. It's the same time that one would estimate the trip to take by car, and I understand the appeal (particularly among Americans) for jumping behind the wheel of an automobile and hitting the open road.

But if you'd prefer to relax en route and arrive rested without the hassles of tolls and expensive gasoline, check out the Enterprise. It could be just the ticket you want.

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