Tuesday, 22 June 2021
Saincheisteanna Tráthúla - Topical Issue Debate
The rail freight service from Ballina railway station to Dublin Port normally takes between five and seven freight trains per week, servicing some of the biggest industries in the west. It is a core part of our attractiveness as a location to invest in Ballina. It is served by a superb team at Ballina railway station. The Ballina freight depot is one of the busiest in the country. However, since Christmas there have been a number of disruptions to services and in recent weeks the service has stopped completely. A wonderful company called International Warehousing and Transport, IWT, has been running the service. It has shown huge ambition in terms of developing the service and it has further plans for it. The service has come to a halt because of difficulties at Dublin Port that relate to Brexit and the need for space and some other issues which have put a stop to trains going into Dublin Port.
It is ridiculous that Dublin Port, the biggest port in the country, is no longer open to rail freight. We passed the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development (Amendment) Bill 2021 in this House last week, during which debate we heard much talk about lowering emissions. We are failing to lower emissions yet a freight service which catered for between five and seven freight trains per week and took freight off the road is stopped. There does not appear to be a huge amount of urgency in terms of resolving the issue.
I know that work is under way and that the Department of Transport is engaging. It is a very minor operational issue. Dublin Port is engaging with International Warehousing and Transport, IWT, and Irish Rail but urgency is needed.
I acknowledge the engagement of the Minister of State, Deputy Naughton, on this matter. I know she cannot be here this evening. I put it to the Minister of State, Deputy Noonan, that the Department of Transport needs to get serious about rail services in the west. It does not believe in them. It treats rail services as an item under "any other business". This service works and is profitable. It delivers in so many ways and yet there is no urgency in the Department to resolve the issue. It is typical of the Department's approach to rail transport in the west.