Ireland - NVR : 60 IRL-(VKM)
The history of rail transport in Ireland began only a decade later than that of Great Britain. By its peak in 1920, Ireland had 3,500 route miles (3,500km). The current status is less than half that amount, with a large unserviced area around the border area between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.
Ireland's railways are run by Iarnród Éireann in the Republic and Northern Ireland Railways. The Railway Preservation Society of Ireland based in Whitehead, County Antrim runs preserved steam trains on the main line, with the Irish Traction Group preserving diesel locomotives, and operating on the main line. The Downpatrick & County Down Railway is the only self-contained full-size heritage railway in Ireland.
Transport on a country-wide scale began in 1710 with the introduction by the General Post Office of mail coaches on the main routes between towns. Private operators added to the routes, and an established "turnpike" road system started in the 1730s. In 1715 the Irish Parliament took steps to encourage inland navigation, but it was not until 1779 that the first 19 km (12 mi) section of the Grand Canal was opened. The addition of the Royal Canal and river navigation (particularly on the River Shannon) meant that freight could be transported more easily. Charles Bianconi established his horse-car services in the south in 1815, the first of many such passenger-carrying operations. Despite these improvements huge areas of Ireland still relied on a basic road system; turnpikes were still slow and canals were expensive. Most routes in the Republic radiate from Dublin. Northern Ireland has suburban routes from Belfast and two main lines, to Derry and the cross-border route to Dublin. A major infrastructure plan for the Republic of Ireland, Transport 21, was announced by the Minister of Transport on 1 November 2005, to include heavy rail, light rail and metro projects in the period to 2015.
The accompanying map of the current railway network shows lines that are fully operational, lines carrying freight only traffic, and lines which have been "mothballed" (i.e. closed to traffic but potentially easily re-openable). Some airports are indicated but none is rail-connected although Kerry Airport and Belfast City Airport are within walking distance of a railway station. Both the City of Derry Airport and Belfast International (Aldergrove) are near railway lines but not connected. Ports are marked, though few remain rail-connected. Larne Harbour is one port still connected.