IARNRÓD Éireann (IÉ) remains fully committed to the proposed relocation of Plunkett Station onto Waterford’s North Quays, an ambition re-iterated by the Government in the National Development Plan (NDP) last week.
Speaking to the Waterford News & Star, IÉ Chief Executive Jim Meade said: “We fully support that relocation. We think it’s a brilliant scheme and we fully support Waterford City & County Council when it comes to this. We feel that Michael (Walsh), the CEO and his team has done an excellent job; we’re four square behind them.”
Mr Meade added: “We can see the benefits for Waterford, we can see the benefits for rail and, yes, I think it’s a project that will go ahead and we are fully supportive of it.”
The NDP (2021-2030) commits to upgrade works at Ceannt (Galway) and Colbert (Galway) Stations while “in Waterford a new train station and transport hub will be built as part of the North Quays redevelopment project which will replace Plunkett Station”.
Mr Meade sits on the steering committee of the recently convened all-island Strategic Rail Review, which may well determine the long-term status of the lines connecting Waterford to both Rosslare and Limerick.
“We’re looking at the opportunities right across the island of Ireland when it comes to enhancing activity, both in freight and passenger terms,” he said.
“So all the lightly used lines, the cross-regional lines as well as the regular inter-city lines that we’re aware of; it’s about looking at that from an all-island perspective and understanding how we can enhance services on all routes.”
Looking ahead and taking its sustainability commitments into account, IÉ is also committed to phasing out its entire diesel engine fleet, Mr Meade confirmed.
“I’m happy to say that our next fleet order will be electric or battery electric,” he said. “We made the decision a couple of years ago that we wouldn’t buy any further diesel trains for passenger services so our future is in both electric and battery electric. At present, as we refurbish the diesel trains in our fleet, we put in the most up to date engines into them. We are constantly moving ahead when it comes to our decarbonisation strategy and I’m also happy to say that Iarnród Éireann achieved its Kyoto 2020 targets in 2016. So we see the next challenge as an opportunity to prove that rail can and will continue to meet those future targets.” The first battery electric engines are scheduled to enter the IÉ fleet by 2025.
As for the recently initiated freight service between the Port of Waterford and Ballina, Mr Meade said: “It’s important to move traffic back onto rail. The whole decarbonisation and sustainability agenda is very important for us, the Port of Waterford and for the country. We’ve commenced a freight strategy out to 2040 and our ambition is to draw more activity back onto rail and open up the opportunities for customers to ply their goods by rail. We’re looking forward to a long and prosperous relationship with XPO Logistics while continuing the long relationship we have with Waterford Port.”