Tuesday, 22 June 2021
Saincheisteanna Tráthúla - Topical Issue Debate
Throughout the Covid-19 pandemic and Brexit, the Department worked with the ports and shipping companies to ensure sufficient capacity and connectivity to facilitate the movement of goods in and out of Ireland. Significant Government investment has gone into the customs, agriculture and immigration inspection facilities necessary since 1 January 2021. There has been a remarkable response from the shipping sector in the context of a significant number of additional sailings direct to the Continent as a result of market demand. There has also been a sharp increase in the demand for lo-lo services.
It is important to point out that neither the Minister for Transport nor the Department is directly involved in decisions taken by the privately operated terminal at Dublin Port.
However, the Minister for Transport, Deputy Ryan, is very concerned that the question of the continuation of rail services into the port should arise at a time when the focus is on ensuring our transport modes are environmentally, economically and socially sustainable. The Minister understands discussions are continuing to explore several options to address the situation. He encourages all parties to engage constructively to ensure the difficulties are resolved as a matter of urgency so that Irish Rail can maintain and develop its services to the port.
The ultimate aim is that rail freight continues to be facilitated at Dublin Port in line with Government policy and particularly having regard to the strategic review of rail freight that is under way. It is acknowledged that freight by rail can make a significant contribution to climate action initiatives and tackling road congestion. As I mentioned, the Department of Transport, in consultation with the Department for Infrastructure in Northern Ireland and other relevant stakeholders, is undertaking a strategic review of the heavy rail network on the island of Ireland. The Department launched the procurement process in April and it is expected that work on the review itself will commence by the summer and take 12 months to complete. This will be one of the most significant reviews of the rail network on the island in many years and will provide a framework to develop a much-improved rail network in the years ahead.