Iarnród Éireann has started trial runs of longer freight trains. The trials will enable capacity of freight trains on principle routes in the Republic of Ireland to be increased by up to 50 per cent during the fourth quarter of 2016. The aim is to make rail freight more competitive and even more eco-friendly.

The first trial was to test the hauling capability of the General Motors Class 201 locomotives up the steep gradients that vary between 1 in 85 and 1 in 140 over the four-and-a-half miles heading out of Dublin Heuston towards Sallins on the main line to Cork.

The first trial was to test the hauling capability of the General Motors Class 201 locomotives up the steep gradients that vary between 1 in 85 and 1 in 140 over the four-and-a-half miles heading out of Dublin Heuston towards Sallins on the main line to Cork.

This first trial was successfully completed on Monday, 15 February, with a 1,296 tonne laden train. This is believed to be the heaviest ever to operate on Iarnród Éireann tracks. The next trials scheduled to operate will involve trains of 27 bogie flat wagons for carrying shipping containers (54TEUs long) and a train of 18 loaded pulpwood wagons.

ENVIRONMENTAL COMPETITIVENESS

In addition to the improved commerciality, longer trains bring improved environmental benefits to rail – moving freight by rail instead of road reduces emissions up to 75 per cent per unit, and longer trains could see emissions reduced to as little as one-tenth of the road equivalent.

Says Iarnród Éireann general manger for rail freight Glenn Carr, ‘Iarnród Éireann is working with existing customers as well as freight forwarders, ports and the Irish Exporters Association to identify opportunities and trends for rail freight development within the Irish and European market. Longer freight trains will further enhance both the commercial and environmental competitiveness of rail freight in Ireland.’

FREIGHT VOLUMES RISE

All container traffic is currently based on the busy Mayo hub at Ballina where 18 loaded trains are handled every week. The Ballina to Dublin Port route currently has seven Up and seven Down services each week operated for International Warehousing and Transport (IWT), an award- winning Dublin based company, whilst the route to Waterford Port has two Up and two Down services on it operated for DFDS Logistics.

The Waterford trains connect into shipping services to and from the major international hub at Rotterdam. Bulk trains for pulpwood are operated for Coillte from Ballina and Westport to Waterford several times weekly and on the east coast line zinc ore trains operate from Navan to Dublin Port two or three times daily.

During 2015 rail freight volumes on Iarnród Éireann were up by 2.1 per cent compared with 2014 levels.

Report by Tim Casterton.