IARNROD Éireann has given the clearest indication yet that the railway line between Foynes and Limerick city may be re-opened in the near future.
Iarnrod Éireann chief executive Richard Fearn has said that following discussions with management at the Shannon Foynes Port Company, it is believed that there will soon be enough commercial traffic to justify re-opening the line, which has been dormant since 2001.
Mr Fearn made the comments in response to a parliamentary question by Fine Gael TD Patrick O’Donovan regarding the future of the rail line, and what potential exists for it to be re-opened to freight traffic.
Mr Fearn, responding on behalf of Minister for Transport Leo Varadkar, said that while the line between Foynes and Limerick “had not been used for many years, the route could be re-opened if there was sufficient traffic to create a good business case to do so”.
Mr Fearn added that “active discussions with Foynes port management are ongoing, as it is currently believed there will be traffic to justify re-opening the route in the foreseeable future”.
Mr O’Donovan welcomed Mr Fearn’s comments, which are the clearest indication to date that Iarnrod Éireann believes that the line could have a viable future.
“If this service was to be re-established, it would be terrific for businesses operating in the region and would also serve as a major attraction to other businesses thinking of setting up in the area”, he said.
“[Iarnrod Éireann] have recognised that it is worthwhile investigating the possibility of reopening this. This is an issue that I have been working on since before the general election and I am delighted to see such positive soundings coming from Iarnrod Éireann”.
Iarnrod Éireann currently provides freight train services directly into a number of commercial ports, including Dublin and Waterford ports, to facilitate heavier volumes of shipping.
Connectivity to and from Foynes port has been a contentious issue in recent years, with business people and public representatives complaining on several occasions that the port – the busiest on the west coast – is under serviced. Foynes is currently the only commercial port in Ireland which is not accessible by a national primary road.
As recently as June this year, residents in Foynes and Askeaton have campaigned to prevent further downgrading of the rail link.