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Work to Reopen Port of Foynes-Limerick Freight Railway Line

14th November 2022
In this freight scene during the 1980's at the Port of Foynes is where the service linking Limerick ran until closing in 2001. Behind the freight yard depot, the wheelhouse of a ship can be seen at the Shannon estuary port.
In this freight scene during the 1980's at the Port of Foynes is where the service linking Limerick ran until closing in 2001. Behind the freight yard depot, the wheelhouse of a ship can be seen at the Shannon estuary port. Credit: Courtesy of Barry Carse /Irish Railway Record Society

Work is to start at the Shannon estuary Port of Foynes of the first phase to reopen the railway line to Limerick which is to carry freight but also the possibility to return a passenger service.

To mark the reopening of works today, Chief Executive of Iarnród Éireann, Jim Meade was joined by Chief Executive of Shannon Foynes Port Company, Pat Keating to witness the unloading of rail destined for the first phase of works.

The construction of phase one of the project, which is funded by the Department of Transport will involve a 42km stretch of railway between Foynes and Limerick which originally opened in 1858 but closed to passenger traffic in 1963.

A freight service continued until 2001. When these services stopped, the line was declared inactive, but the line remained under the stewardship of Iarnród Éireann.

Phase one of this project involves the following works:

⦁ Vegetation clearance and removal of existing track.
⦁ Replacement of track formation and installation of a new ballast bed to current Iarnród Éireann standards.
⦁ Rehabilitation and / or renewal of bridges and culverts.
⦁ Supply and installation of new rail and concrete sleepers along the entire route.
⦁ Renewal of road infrastructure at public road level crossings.
⦁ Renewal of accommodation crossings.
⦁ Renewal of lineside fencing.
⦁ Installation of infrastructure to accommodate the next phase of the project

It is anticipated that these works will take in the region of two years to complete, and vegetation clearance is already underway.

Phase two of the project will include; provision of a signalling system for the route, CCTV level crossings, train communications system and track connections and upgrades at Limerick and in Foynes Yard. Subject to funding allocation for phase 2 it is expected that this work will take 18 months to complete and it is anticipated that the route will open for freight services in 2025.

The current phase of work that is about to begin and the subsequent phases will facilitate rail freight services, but will not preclude the possibility of passenger services being reintroduced on this line in the future, but this would require further infrastructure upgrades and funding.

Iarnród Éireann wishes to acknowledge the co-operation and support of Shannon Foynes Port Company and Limerick City and County Council in bringing the project to the construction stage. The company looks forward to engaging with communities and all stakeholders along the route during this phase of construction.

The project aligns with and supports Iarnród Éireann’s Rail Freight 2040 Strategy, and the recently launched strategic review of the Shannon Foynes Port Company Masterplan, Vision 2041. The reopening of the Limerick to Foynes rail line for freight services also satisfies several EU, national, regional, and local development objectives. The proposed project contributes to objectives of common interest with the EU as defined in Article 7 of the TEN-T guideline, with the following specific contributions:

⦁ Interconnection of the modes of transport rail and ship services, promoting intermodal transport.
⦁ Promotion of environmental protection by strengthening freight transport via rail and sea rather than road transport.
⦁ Extension of interconnections.

Chief Executive of Iarnród Éireann, Jim Meade said: Seeing the work commence on reopening of the Limerick to Foynes rail line is a proud day for us at Iarnród Éireann. Our Rail Freight Strategy is all about creating connections and giving greater opportunity for businesses to switch from road freight to more sustainable rail freight. I am certain that upon reopening of the line, working with our colleagues at the Shannon Foynes Port Company we will deliver a reliable, frequent and most importantly sustainable logistics option for many companies that currently and in the future will use the port of Foynes.”

Published in Shannon Estuary
Jehan Ashmore

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Jehan Ashmore

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Jehan Ashmore is a marine correspondent, researcher and photographer, specialising in Irish ports, shipping and the ferry sector serving the UK and directly to mainland Europe. Jehan also occasionally writes a column, 'Maritime' Dalkey for the (Dalkey Community Council Newsletter) in addition to contributing to UK marine periodicals. 

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Shannon Foynes Port Information

Shannon Foynes Port (SFPC) are investing in an unprecedented expansion at its general cargo terminal, Foynes, adding over two-thirds the size of its existing area. In the latest phase of a €64 million investment programme, SFPC is investing over €20 million in enabling works alone to convert 83 acres on the east side of the existing port into a landbank for marine-related industry, port-centric logistics and associated infrastructure. The project, which will be developed on a phased basis over the next five years, will require the biggest infrastructure works programme ever undertaken at the port, with the entire 83 acre landbank having to be raised by 4.4 metres. The programme will also require the provision of new internal roads and multiple bridge access as well as roundabout access.