RAIL commuters forced to park their cars at supermarkets and churches before running for the train are being promised more than 13,000 parking spaces at stations.
Drivers will have to pay, but at much lower rates than commercial car parks.
Rail chiefs have drawn up plans to provide new pay-parking facilities at over 60 stations, many of which are packed by 7.30am daily.
The move coincides with major increases in frequencies and capacities of services planned across the network under Transport 21.
The additional spaces will meet current demand and allow for further expansion into the future.
A spokesperson for Iarnrod Eireann said yesterday the spaces will cost €2 a day or €5 a week. The revenue will be used for maintenance of the car parks and the provision of CCTV.
Highlights of the proposals include: the largest public transport park and ride facility in the country; a 1,200 space car park, north of Dunboyne at the M3 interchange -- the terminus for the Clonsilla-Dunboyne (M3) line, which will serve the wider area of Co Meath and beyond.
It will also feaure major car parks at new stations such as Dunboyne, Midleton, Carrigtwohill, Dunkettle, Clondalkin's Fonthill Road and Oranmore, as well as enhancements to parking at over 50 existing stations, including over 20 in the greater Dublin commuter belt.
As well as expanding car park facilities, work will incorporate enhanced bicycle facilities, and CCTV and other security features.
The programme will be phased in over the coming five years and will be prioritised according to demand, land availability and as planning permission allows.
Dr John Lynch, CIE and Iarnrod Eireann chairman, said yesterday: "It is critical that we open up the benefits of rail investment to as wide a catchment area as possible through the development of quality car park facilities.
"Although this programme addresses over 60 stations, we will continue to seek opportunities for further car park development around our network," he added.
Transport Minister Noel Dempsey TD said: "People can feel re-assured that they can leave their car at a station and take the train to work, thus reducing the hassle of getting in and out of work and improving their commuting experience."
Treacy Hogan and Shane Hickey