On-board catering services will return to Iarnród Éireann rail services for the first time in more than three years from early April.

Catering services were suspended due to Covid-19 restrictions in February 2020.

On-board catering will initially be available on Iarnród Éireann's Cork-Dublin route.

Carriage Food Services Ltd will provide a trolley service on selected services between Cork and Dublin, before expanding to all Cork-Dublin services in the following weeks.

Iarnród Éireann said that as Cork-to-Dublin also serves "the vast majority of customers travelling to/from Kerry (changing at Mallow) and Limerick (changing at Limerick Junction), 50% of Intercity customers will have on-board catering available, including Dublin-Belfast Enterprise".

"People love the trolley coming round and we're looking forward to it being back," Iarnród Éireann communications manager Barry Kenny said.

Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, Mr Kenny explained that Iarnród Éireann pays the service provider and when it sought a new provider after Covid-19 restrictions eased, the company was quoted "multiples" of the previous costs.

It was at a minimum four times the price previously charged, he said.

Mr Kenny said the trolley service would provide drinks and snacks but not hot food.

In addition, the rail operator said it will proceed with a full procurement process for catering services across the Intercity network, and is progressing a pilot for catering vending machines on some trains.

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In relation to the delay of the resumption of catering services, Iarnród Éireann said that after the lifting of face-covering regulations in February 2022, the company 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 last year.

Since then, Iarnród Éireann said it has engaged with market providers to restore an on-board service but that "costs and staffing issues resulted in providers quoting prices to Iarnród Éireann of many multiples of the previous contract to restore full services".

Carriage Food Services is a sister company of CCSL, which currently provides catering services on-board the Dublin-Belfast Enterprise service under a separate contract.

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."