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Viability of Freight by Rail in Ireland

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StevieB
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There is much debate going on about the future of freight by rail in Ireland, in particular how to reduce costs, increase profitability and attract more custom off the roads. I was interested to read the other day that the main reason for one of IE's customers at Ballina using rail was to reduce its CO2 emissions rather than cost alone.

 

Currently the maximum length of container trains is 18 wagons, long by many people's standard but not long enough it seems. I was stopped recently at a level crossing on the Birmingham-Bristol line and a 26 wagon container train went by. Now if IE is aiming for trains of this length, then considerable investment in infrastructure is required since much of the line to Ballina is single track and passing loops will need to be lengthened.

 

Is there the political will there, bearing in mind who actually owns IE?

 

Stephen

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There's certainly no political will here at all, not has there been for decades, and that's not going to change.

 

However, international carbon-emission agreements and resultant EU rules may well overtake things at some stage; let's hope they do. What Ireland has against it, of course, is small distances. However, properly thought out, you would imagine that basic system of goods trains from Dublin to Waterford, Cork, Tralee, Limerick, Galway, Athlone, Ballina, and Belfast or Derry should be feasible.

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What Ireland has against it, of course, is small distances.

 

And most Irish industry is in coastal areas - in the UK, you have places like Birmingham, Leeds, Nottingham, Sheffield, even Manchester these days, all without harbour facilities close at hand.

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I guess that one reason that Ballina and Westport have surviving freight services is that the motorway system has not reached Co Mayo, where every other former, major freight location is served by motorways or good quality dual carriageways.

 

Stephen

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I immediately get pangs of frustration when I see this topic brought up! Political will is the biggest obstacle in this country. With a huge focus on exports, as well as our huge dependence on imports, there are so many viable flows that could be capitalised upon. What's missing in this country is dogged determination and buy-in for 'the greater good'! I often wonder if, for example, the Ardnacrusha Hydroelectric project or Poulaphuca dam project were proposed in this day and age, would they ever get built?

 

Take the line from Rosslare to Limerick, Galway, Mayo and up to Collooney. If that line was in reasonable condition I wound envisage a mixed container/ huckepack trailer service and you would link the 2 ports of Waterford and Rosslare to nearly 3/4 of the country, and all the businesses alonge the south and west coast where road connections are poor.Forestry continues to thrive, so connect in the timber plant in Waterford (should have been done ages ago). Foynes is thriving again, for bulk imports (esp. Fuel and fertiliser), biomass plant coming to Ballina.... I'm sure there's more. Waste for incineration at BnaM sites?

 

But sure what would us mere mortals know about such matters?!

Edited by dave182
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Our new motorways killed rail transport. The main reason we had one of the highest track densities per capita around 1900 is we had very few roads. Back then the rail network was predominately freight - agri freight.

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Our new motorways killed rail transport. The main reason we had one of the highest track densities per capita around 1900 is we had very few roads. Back then the rail network was predominately freight - agri freight.

 

De-regulating road haulage in the early 1990s probably had a greater influence on the run down of IEs freight division than the new roads.

 

Up to the 1990s competition with CIE for freight traffic was restricted under regulations intended to protect the GSR, basically customers had the choice of using CIE, a handful of Licensed Carriers or having to buy their own Fleet of trucks.

 

IE more or less gave up on Sundries traffic as Irish and Multinational logistics companies entered the market, container and bulk traffic held up but costs increased and the railway continued to loose market share and become less relevant as the economy expanded during the Celtic Tiger Years.

 

Judging by experience in other countries any revival in railfreight is more likely to be driven and financed by large customers like port, logistic and mining companies than the Government subsidising IE to run specific services.

 

The biggest obstacles to railfreight in Ireland seems to be that its probably quicker, cheaper and easier to send high value freight from Ireland to destinations in the UK & the European Mainland by road than rail and difficulty in finding a customer that can regularly load a 100TEU train.

 

 

 

The Metroport services are bit like Waterford or Belfast building inland ports in Clondalkin.

 

Kiwirail is contracted to run 4 -105 TEU (35 wagon) trains between the port of Tauranga & Southdown Auckland daily.

 

http://www.port-tauranga.co.nz/images.php?oid=3009

 

Auckland Port recently built its own internal port in South Auckland with a shuttle rail service to reduce congestion in the port and act as a buffer to allow ships to be loaded and unloaded quickly.

 

http://www.poal.co.nz/facilities_services/facilities/rail_exchange.htm

Edited by Mayner
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We'll all have flying cars before that happens.

 

LOL - A tunnel connecting the two islands has never been more than a daft pipe dream. Now if we had a population of 40m then the numbers might be a bit further from la-la land. :)

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A rail tunnel from Ireland to the UK would attract EU structural funding, as it's an infrastructural link between two states. If the UK government was to extend it's HS2 line to Dublin it would also qualify for contributions to the cost from the EU structural fund. The EU are always banging on about providing infrastructure, so there's a case to be made. If you don't ask, you won't get.

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A rail tunnel from Ireland to the UK would attract EU structural funding, as it's an infrastructural link between two states. If the UK government was to extend it's HS2 line to Dublin it would also qualify for contributions to the cost from the EU structural fund. The EU are always banging on about providing infrastructure, so there's a case to be made. If you don't ask, you won't get.

 

Yes provide useful infrastructure but not waste. The channel tunnel project between UK and France went bust owing gazzilions that will never be recouped even with the state aid both countries gave, and a rail tunnel between Ireland and GB would cost many many multiples more due to the distance and geology, yet with a tiny population and tiny freight tonnage compared to larger EU countries. Sorry but a tunnel makes absolutely no economic sense due to the size of our economy and the small size of our population.

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Tunnel vs bridge? Why not have both?

 

This tunnel/bridge in Prague always amuses me - the 'underground' runs inside the tube, with the road on top - unless you look closely around you when you get out at the next station, there's no indication that you've actually been up in the sky, not underground...

 

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Has IE ever transported milk? Not sure if they have the right stuff for that but anyway. As Noel said the main traffic was agri which would have decreased even though there can still have been traffic for it.

 

CIE did, but in churns, probably up to 70's. Have seen marked milk churns with things like 'GSR (or GS&WR) Station (name)' with the name of the creamery as well.

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Has IE ever transported milk? Not sure if they have the right stuff for that but anyway. As Noel said the main traffic was agri which would have decreased even though there can still have been traffic for it.

 

A traffic in raw milk from some of the producing counties to the processing plants might develop if some of the larger dairy companies like Kerry, Glanbia or Dairygold were to amalgamate and centralise processing at a small number of plants. All that's need is a siding at a collecting point, a siding at the processing plant, some flat wagons and suitable ISO containers http://www.teara.govt.nz/en/photograph/21401/milk-trains.

 

Butter, cheese and meat were important traffics for the railways the old companies had special ventilated wagons for butter and meat traffic, reefers and insulated containers were used when the remaining traffic was containerised in the 70s.

 

Up to the 1960s cattle traffic was pretty much from the breeding counties in the West as stores to be fattened in the East or on the hoof to the UK. Meat processing took off in the 50s with rail served (almost) plants such as Grand Canal Street, Roscrea and Leixlip ( Leixlip & Hazlehatch as railheads).

 

Roscrea had a cattle bank with a race leading directly into the meat plant and gantries for loading containers. Rathkeale and Dromad had gantries for loading containers from the local meat works.

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