Down the line closures would rocket costs
Sunday Tribune July 26th 2009
By Ken Griffin
The Irish Exporters Association is lobbying the government to retain 'lightly used' railway lines An Bord Snip Nua recommended be shut down.
MAJOR Irish-based employers such as Coca-Cola, CRH and Coillte look set to be hit by rising transport costs if An Bord Snip Nua's proposal to shut three "lightly used" railway lines is implemented.
The Irish Exporters Association (IEA) is now lobbying the government to retain the railway lines, arguing their closure will threaten future multinational investment in the western region.
Several of the companies potentially impacted, including Coca-Cola, are currently expanding their use of rail transport based on prior government commitments to revitalise the state's rail-freight services. "If An Bord Snip Nua's proposals are implemented, costs will rise significantly for those companies, especially as oil prices increase, because road-freight prices are more susceptible to fluctuations than rail-freight ones," said Howard Knott, the IEA'S director of trade facilitation.
"Another issue is that many of these companies produce high-value products, which can't stand up to a battering from Irish roads. If they couldn't use rail, they would have to spend significantly more on extra packaging to avoid damage to those products."
The three lines under threat - which run between Ballina and Manulla Junction, Limerick, and Rosslare Europort and Ballybrophy and Limerick - each carry freight for at least one major employer. Freight business from Ballina is particularly buoyant, with new services to Dublin Port due to start next month.
"These services are all profitable - unlike most other countries, Ireland doesn't subsidise rail freight," said Knott.