Future development at Dublin Port must involve rail connections, committee told

Irish Rail official says preference for road-based development could have economic consequences

Any future development at Dublin Port must involve rail connections, an Oireachtas committee has heard, despite the port’s management having no plans to do so.

Minister for the Environment Eamon Ryan, in an unprecedented intervention last month, wrote to Dublin Port castigating it for prioritising road freight above rail in its future development plan, entitled 3FM, which he said was unsustainable.

Speaking at the Oireachtas environment committee on Tuesday, Glenn Carr, director of commercial business units at Irish Rail and Rosslare Europort, said it was “essential” that Dublin Port had a rail-based solution in its expansion plans.

Mr Carr, who is involved in the forthcoming All-Island Strategic Rail Review, which is examining how to improve links between the island’s regions and major cities, also warned that a roads-leaning preference for development could have economic consequences.


“We have to be very careful that if Ireland doesn’t offer a sustainable way to move their goods, the decision-makers in time may make other decisions for their plants to be developed elsewhere. And they are the conversations we’re having with multinationals today,” he said.

In his letter to Dublin Port in April, Mr Ryan took aim at redevelopment plans for the South Docks which intends to double its capacity by 2040. The overall project envisages the construction of Ireland’s largest container terminal, with a capacity to accommodate more than 350,000 containers annually – a level twice the combined total of all other ports.

“It appears to effectively consolidate the type of roll-on, roll-off and load-on, load-off trade which is completely reliant on road access. In my view, this is not a sustainable approach,” the Minister wrote of the 3FM project.

Tuesday’s committee meeting was convened to discuss port capacity for renewable energy infrastructure. It heard that Rosslare, Waterford, Cork and Shannon Foynes ports will all be connected by rail, which will move all the way up the west coast to serve multinational companies.

Mr Carr said he did not agree with the 3FM plan for Dublin Port in its current format.

“We believe that any inland port facility of a scale of that nature must be rail connected,” he said. “We will be engaging on that footing at all times in regards to conversations with Dublin Port.”

The All Ireland Rail Review, which went to public consultation last November, notes in its strategic policy paper that connecting major ports can facilitate economic opportunity.

“The three regional assemblies in Ireland acknowledge the economic potential of rail corridors; for efficient freight movements, connecting workforces and supporting tourism,” it said.

Mark Hilliard

Mark Hilliard

Mark Hilliard is a reporter with The Irish Times