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HAVING a professional interest in transport matters, I read submissions to the Transport Department’s 2020 Sustainable Transport Study.
The submission from the Cork Chamber of Commerce contained a few factual errors.
First, the submission noted that neither 40-foot nor 45-foot containers can be handled by Iarnród Éireann (IÉ). The company can and does handle containers of these standard sizes and has a large fleet of wagons on which to accommodate them. They also have some wagons which are capable of carrying ‘hi-cube’ containers up to 10’ in height on most lines throughout the country. These operated to North Esk freight yard in Cork until IÉ withdrew the service in July 2005, dumping Cork’s freight customers in the process. Containers of 9’6” height are regularly carried on the Waterford to Ballina DFDS freight train.
Second, the submission states that it is not possible to run overnight freight trains due to IÉ maintenance requirements. This is akin to saying the motorway network must close between 10pm and 6am in case road works are required. IÉ does occasionally carry out overnight maintenance works on the track but mostly at weekends when freight trains are not operating.
A great deal of Government and EU money has been spent on making the Irish railway network one of the most modern in Europe. It is now a 24/7 network, mostly controlled from a central signalling centre. This means that freight trains can run overnight at marginal cost. While passenger trains are receiving overnight services in depots, freight services can have the tracks to themselves.
At the same time, these trains would take freight off the roads, freeing up space.
Finally, EU grants are available to aid the transfer of road freight to rail. This can greatly benefit ports such as Cork. With increased volumes of intermodal traffic arriving in Ireland, it will be vital for ports to have an alternative to road for the onward carriage of freight.
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