Transport in Ireland

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Most of the transport system in Ireland rests in public hands, both north and south of the border. The road network has evolved separately north and south, while the rail network was mostly created prior to the partition of Ireland.

In the Republic of Ireland, the Minister for Transport, acting through the Department of Transport, is responsible for the state's road network, rail network, public transport, airports and several other areas. Although some sections of road have been built using private or public-private funds, and are operated as toll roads, they are owned by the Irish Government. The rail network is also state owned and operated, while the Government currently still owns the airports in the State (though the authorities running them are due to be privatised). Public transport is mainly in the hands of a statutory corporation, Coras Iompair Éireann, and its subsidaries, Bus Átha Cliath - Dublin Bus, Bus Éireann - Irish Bus, and Iarnrod Éireann - Irish Rail.

On November 1st 2005 the Dublin government published the Transport 21 plan which includes €18bn for improved roads and €16bn for improved rail, including the Western Rail Corridor and the Dublin Metro.

In Northern Ireland, the road network and railways are in state ownership at present. The Department for Regional Development is responsible for these and other areas (such as water services), but as the Northern Ireland Assembly is currently suspended, the department is operated by London (direct rule). The main airports in Northern Ireland are privately operated and owned. A statutory corporation, the Northern Ireland Transport Holding Company (which trades as Translink) operates public transport services through its three subsidaries - Northern Ireland Railways Company Limited, Ulsterbus Limited, and Citybus Limited (now branded as Metro).

Railways

Total (1998) - 1,947 km
5'3" (1600mm) gauge
38 km electrified; 485 km double track

Main article: Rail transport in Ireland

Intercity railway services provided by Iarnród Éireann (IÉ) link Dublin (Connolly, Heuston & Pearse Street Stns.) to Cork (Kent Stn.), Waterford (Plunket Stn.), Kilkenny (MacDonagh Stn.), Galway (Ceannt Stn.), Tralee (Casement Stn.), Sligo (MacDiarmada Stn.), Limerick (Colbert Stn.) and Belfast. Rail in Northern Ireland is run by Northern Ireland Railways (NIR), connecting Belfast to Derry (Londonderry) and providing suburban services around the city. The cross-border Dublin-Belfast 'Enterprise' service is jointly run by IÉ and NIR.

Many lines in the west were decommissioned in the 1930s under Éamon de Valera. There is a campaign to bring these back into service, in particular the Limerick-Sligo line (The Western Rail Corridor), to facilitate economic regeneration in the west, which has lagged behind the rest of the country. There is also a smaller campaign to re-establish the rail link between Sligo and Enniskillen/Derry.

Since 1984 an electrically operated train service runs between Bray and Howth, called the Dublin Area Rapid Transit. In 2004 a light rail system, Luas, was opened in Dublin. As of 2004 a metro system is also in the planning stage. The Luas system has caused much disruption in Dublin, in retrospect many believe an underground would have been a better option, one of the current options being discussed is to upgrade the LUAS to the metro system when the metro is being installed.

See also: History of rail transport in Ireland

External links

Roads

Total - 117,318 km including 258 km of motorway
North: 24,818 km including 133 km of motorway (2002) [1]
South: 92,500 km (1999 est.) including 125 km of motorway (2001) [2]
paved - 87,043 km, unpaved - 5,457 km

Ireland's roads link Dublin with all the major cities (Cork, Limerick, Galway, Waterford and Belfast). Driving is on the left.

Main Article: Roads in Ireland

Bus Services

The national bus services in the Republic of Ireland is provided by Bus Éireann (Bus Ireland). The company provides an express coach network connecting most cities in Ireland, along with local bus services in the provincial cities. In Dublin, Bus Átha Cliath - Dublin Bus provides bus services. There are also a number of private operators, the biggest of which include Aircoach, a subsidary of First Group which provides services to Dublin Airport from parts of Dublin, and Scottish Citylink which competes on the Dublin-Galway route. Some private rural operators exist, such as the Lough Swilly Bus Company.

In Northern Ireland Ulsterbus provides the bus network, with its sister company Metro providing services in Belfast. Both are part of Translink.

Waterways

Total (2004) - 753 km
(pleasure craft only)

Pipelines

Natural gas 1,795 km (2003)

Ports and harbours

Ireland has ports in the towns of Arklow, Belfast, Cork, Drogheda, Dublin, Dundalk, Dún Laoghaire, Foynes, Galway, Larne, Limerick, New Ross, Rosslare Europort, Waterford, Wicklow

Ports in the Republic handle 3,600,000 travelers crossing the Irish sea each year, amounting to 92% of all sea travel (CSO figures). This has been steadly dropping for a number of years (20% since 1999), probably as a result of low cost airlines.

Ferry connections between Britain to Ireland via the Irish Sea include the routes from Swansea to Cork, Fishguard and Pembroke to Rosslare, Holyhead to Dún Laoghaire, Stranraer to Belfast and Larne, and Cairnryan to Larne. There is also a connection between Liverpool and Belfast via the Isle of Man. The world's largest car ferry, Ulysses, is operated by Irish Ferries on the Dublin–Holyhead route. In addition, Rosslare and Cork run ferries to France.

Ireland is one of the last large inhabited islands in the world without a tunnel or bridge connection. Thus the vast majority of heavy goods trade is done by sea. Northern Irish ports handle 10 megatonnes of goods trade with Britain annually, while ports in the south handle 7.6 Mt, representing 50% and 40% respectively of total trade by weight.

Several potential Irish Sea tunnel projects have been proposed, most recently the "Tusker Tunnel" between the ports of Rosslare and Fishguard proposed by The Institute of Engineers of Ireland in 2004. IEI report (pdf) BBC report A different proposed route is between Dublin and Holyhead, proposed in 1997 by a leading British engineering firm, Symonds, for a rail tunnel from Dublin to Holyhead. Either tunnel, at 80 km, would be by far the longest in the world, and would cost an estimated €20bn.

Merchant marine

Total - 35 ships (1,000 GRT or over) totalling 288,401 GRT/383,628 DWT
Ships by type - bulk 7, cargo 22, chemical tanker 1, container 3, roll on/roll off 1, short-sea passenger 1
Foreign-owned - Germany 3, Italy 7, Norway 2
Registered in other countries - 18 (2003 est.)

Airports

Total - 36
Airports - with paved runways
Total - 16
Over 3,047 m - 1
2,438 to 3,047 m - 1
1,524 to 2,437 m - 4
914 to 1,523 m - 4
Under 914 m - 6
Airports - with unpaved runways
Total - 20
914 to 1,523 m - 3
Under 914 m - 17 (all 2003 est.)

Ireland's main airports are Dublin Airport, Shannon International Airport, Cork International Airport and Belfast International Airport.

Many regional airports exist, some flying to international destinations. For example Knock International Airport in County Mayo, Galway Airport, Sligo Airport, Kerry Airport, City of Derry Airport, Belfast City Airport and Waterford Airport. Services to the Aran Islands are operated from Connemara Regional Airport.

Ireland's national airline, Aer Lingus provides air services from Dublin, Cork and Shannon to Britain, Europe and North America. These three airports are run by the State body, Dublin Airport Authority (formerly Aer Rianta). Two other Irish airlines are Ryanair and Aer Arann.

See also

fr:Transport en Irlande