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The Irish Rail website has an FAQ which says:

Intercity passengers should arrive at the station 30 minutes prior to departure. If you are collecting a reservation or purchasing a ticket especially during our peak travel times please give yourself more time. Gates will close 2 minutes before the train departs.

As a user of trains in the UK I found this very surprising -- turning up half an hour before the train is due to depart in the UK would be entirely unnecessary, even if you needed to buy a ticket.

What is the situation in practice on the ground? Are there always 15 minute queues for ticket machines, or some other reason why Irish Rail recommend this early arrival? Would I be denied boarding (seems unlikely given the "gates close at 2 minutes" note)?

(For context, I'm arriving in Dublin on a ferry with a scheduled arrival time of 13:45, and wondering how likely it is that I will be able to catch a train leaving Dublin Heuston station at 15:00. At the moment it seems like that should be doable assuming an on-time ferry and a taxi to the station, but if I must arrive at the station 30 minutes early it looks a bit more dicey. My fallback plan would be to get the next train, but that is not until 17:05.)

Update: I also found that the Iarnród Éireann Online Tickets Terms and Conditions include the line

***Please take your seat 20 minutes in advance of departure***
(though whether a "please" request is actually a legally mandated condition I'm uncertain of), which would line up with Sneftel's theory that they want people to board early rather than predicting long ticket machine queues or similar in-station delay.
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    In many places worldwide taking one’s seat 20 minutes before departure would be impossible at most stations because the trains only stop for a few minutes, and even at termini platforms are often announced and/or the train arrives later than that. Don’t know if that is the case in Heuston (or elsewhere in Ireland).
    – jcaron
    Aug 8 at 11:45
  • Well, indeed. It would be impossible in the UK; I would expect this kind of nonsense from Amtrak because the Americans like to run their trains as if they were aeroplanes; and so the question in some ways is "is Irish Rail in practice more like the UK or like the US?". Aug 8 at 11:54

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30 minutes is far more time than you need. Most of the potential delay would be in collecting your ticket: there's plenty of kiosks, but if you run into trouble you might need to wait in line for the ticket counter. After that, it's quite quick to get to the trains.

My guess is that Irish Rail want people to arrive early so they have plenty of time to find their train car from the platform, rather than jumping on the front car at the last minute and then milling about inside to find their seats.

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  • The last paragraph is standard procedure for most train systems in the world. If you are coming in hot, you jump in the first open door.
    – Hilmar
    Aug 4 at 11:46
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    Thanks for the confirmation that Irish trains are roughly the way UK trains work. As it happens the taxi firm I contacted reckoned that given the ferry often doesn't offload foot passengers very fast plus possible traffic, that making a 15:00 train might be a bit tight. So I may well aim for a more relaxed plan of the 17:05 anyway... Aug 5 at 11:30
  • I also just found that there's a line in the online ticket T&Cs saying "please take your seat 20 minutes before departure" which (a) how many people seriously do that ? and (b) agrees with your guess about them wanting people aboard well before departure rather than expecting long in-station delays. Aug 8 at 9:46

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