CONSTRUCTION is set to commence in the coming weeks on the first phase of a project to reopen the Foynes to Limerick railway line.
The 42km stretch of railway between Limerick and Foynes originally opened in 1858 but closed to passenger traffic in 1963. Freight services continued until 2001. When these services stopped the line was declared inactive, but remained under the stewardship of Iarnród Éireann.
Phase one of the project, which is funded by the Department of Transport, involves the clearance of vegetation and removal of existing track. This will be followed by the replacement of track formation and installation of a new ballast bed to current Iarnród Éireann standards.
Also on the work schedule is the renovation of bridges and culverts as well as the installation of new rail and concrete sleepers along the entire route. Road infrastructure will be upgraded at level crossings and lineside fencing will be renewed.
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, CCTV level crossings, train communications system and track connections and upgrades at Limerick and in Foynes Yard.
Subject to funding allocation, 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.
While the reopening of the line will facilitate rail freight services, it will not preclude the possibility of passenger services being reintroduced in the future, although this would require further infrastructure upgrades and funding.
Iarnród Éireann chief executive Jim Meade was joined by Shannon Foynes Port Company chief executive Pat Keating yesterday (Monday) to witness the unloading of rail for the first phase of works on the line.
Mr Meade said that the start of work on reopening the Limerick to Foynes rail line was a proud day for 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. Reopening of the line will deliver a reliable, frequent and sustainable logistics option for many companies using the Port of Foynes,” he added.