Dublin Port downplays increased role for rail freight in expansion plans despite Ryan’s concerns

Proposals include a terminal for over 350,000 containers per year and a new bridge over the River Liffey

Irish Rail freight train Dublin Port Tara Mines train

Dublin Port Company (DPC) has downplayed the chances of rail freight playing an increased role in its proposed redevelopment of the south docks despite Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan’s concern the plans are too reliant on road transport.

In a report that responds issues raised during a public consultation on its 3FM Project, DPC also stood over belief that increased capacity for the port is justified and pushed back against suggestions that its land is ideal for housing.

Mr Ryan previously raised “significant concerns” about the plans during the consultation period last year and they have also met resistance from residents in nearby Sandymount.

The proposals include a terminal for over 350,000 containers per year and a new bridge over the River Liffey for freight traffic.


The Irish Times reported last April that Mr Ryan took issue with the plan’s reliance on road freight over rail saying he did not see how this would contribute to decarbonisation objectives.

Mr Ryan expressed scepticism all of the proposed extra capacity would be needed and also suggested that three blocks of port land elsewhere in the port should be used for housing.

DPC’s report on the consultation process was sent to the Department of Transport in September.

It was also sent to others who had made submissions.

The report responds to a series of observations made about the project without naming those who made them.

One observation DPC responds to is that the 3FM project needs to embrace rail freight.

The DPC said it has sent proposals to Irish Rail on increasing rail access to Dublin Port.

However, it also says “Demand remains the key challenge for rail freight ... with volumes continuing to decline.”

DPC also says access to the motorway network via the Port Tunnel and M50 “offers a highly competitive and effective alternative”.

The company suggests the most effective short-term way decarbonise freight “is to ensure that low emissions HGVs are encouraged”.

On suggestions that its growth assumptions are excessive, DPC says it “believes that there is a reasonable and well-founded basis for the growth assumptions stated across the different cargo models”.

In response to an observation that its lands are ideal for housing DPC says most of its lands are “in areas with a high industrial or utility function” citing power plants and oil storage tanks and associated infrastructure.

It adds there are areas that “are not suitable for residential development”.

The Department of Transport confirmed that Mr Ryan reiterated concerns, including over the growth assumptions underpinning the project, in three meetings with senior DPC representatives during October and November.

A statement said: “The Minister stated that as the company’s largest shareholder, he would have to carefully consider a 3FM project that did not appear to be fully in line with the Government’s Climate Action Plans”.

Mr Ryan continued to encourage rail freight development.

He asked for DPC to “model projected container traffic being stored away from the Poolbeg peninsula on a developed North Wall Rail Depot ... and a new alternative site outside the port to which the containers could be transferred by rail.”

Mr Ryan also “expressed disappointment” that despite first outlining his expectations in writing to the DPC Board on March 27th 2023 “no tangible progress had been made on the issue of housing.”

The statement said: “DPC agreed to work closely with the Department and Irish Rail in order to find a solution to the issues raised by the Minister.”

It said the 3FM Project and the overall Dublin Port Masterplan 2040 is subject to government policy and that Dublin Port will be expected to play a “leading role” when it comes to hitting Ireland’s climate targets.

The statement added: “the Minister is confident that Dublin Port and his Department will be able to move forward in a way that is beneficial for both the environment and the national economy.”

The 3FM Project is currently the subject of pre-application discussions with An Bord Pleanála

A DPC statement said Mr Ryan’s input was a “valuable addition to the many suggestions we have received” during a “very comprehensive consultation process”.

It added: “we continue to engage with him, his department and other stakeholders to strengthen our plans.”

DPC said it is “highly respectful of the independence of our planning system” and noted that to secure planning consent the 3FM Project “will need to demonstrate to An Bord Pleanála that it is required to meet port capacity and is compliant with all relevant Government Policies, including policies on Climate Action.”

It added: “DPC continues to engage with the Land Development Agency and Department of Housing ... on the appropriateness of port lands for residential development purposes”.

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Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn is a Political Correspondent at The Irish Times