Irish locomotive and train workers on the platform at Waterford station in Ireland

A rail proof of concept in Ireland, a relatively small market

Iarnród Éireann Waterford Freight Depot operations staff on the platform at Waterford with an XPO intermodal train about to departImage Michael Collins / linkedIn

Irish Rail, also known as Iarnród Éireann, has dispatched the 100th intermodal train from Waterford, on the south coast, to the northern logistics hub of Ballina, County Mayo. The solid service covering a distance of over 220km is carried out in partnership with XPO Logistics Europe, and is proof of concept in a relatively small market.

While the Irish government has built a number of modern motorways, the network generally radiates out of Dublin. The freight axis from Waterford to Ballina, which runs south east to north west, is under served by suitable road corridors. By using a rail based solution, the partnership has improved the efficiency and sustainability of intermodal transportation in Ireland.

Aerial shot of intermodal train by the banks of the River Suir in Waterford, Ireland
Aerial shot of an intermodal train by the banks of the River Suir in Waterford, Ireland

All ports connected

Iarnród Éireann follows a government initiative to have all the designated “Tier 1 Ports” connected to the rail network by 2040 – as laid out in the All Ireland Strategic Rail Review. “This degree of connectivity will establish an expansive rail freight network which provides the options and resilience required by modern supply chains and potential freight customers”, says their report “Rail Freight Strategy 2040”.

The report also demands the development of a network of intermodal terminals. “Additional infrastructure is required to prove a network of facilities and a freight service offering as a viable alternative to road for existing and new customers.  An expansive network of inland rail freight terminals is proposed, establishing rail freight in each of the regions.”

Extend the service further

Meanwhile, under the partnership, XPO use the Iarnród Éireann rail network to transport intermodal traffic across the country. The Waterford and Ballina route has become an iconic part of the operation, attracting considerable business and political interest – not least because it represents the spearhead of the seventeen year programme to 2040. XPO and Iarnród Éireann are working together to create a range of intermodal transportation solutions that combine rail, road, and sea transport.

“Thanks to everyone involved in reaching this milestone”, said Kelvin Bulmer, the General Manager at XPO Logistics Europe. “We are looking forward to working with our partners to extend this service further as we move forward in 2023.” The company has been operating in Ireland since 2015 and has a strong presence in the Irish logistics market. The next seventeen years gives that presence plenty of time to grow even stronger.

Author: Simon Walton

Simon Walton is RailFreight's UK correspondent.

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