Friday 17th May 2024: Sisk and Iarnród Éireann yesterday marked a major milestone on the Foynes to Limerick Rail Freight line project, with track laying commencing on the route. Jim Meade, Chief Executive of Iarnród Éireann was joined by local and national elected representatives as well as members of the project team.

Works are progressing well on phase one of the reopening of the Foynes to Limerick railway line, with the laying of track is another key piece of progress.

Existing old track, including rails, sleepers and fixings comprised of jointed track on timber sleepers were life expired and have all been removed. Now, the main contractor on the project, Sisk and their specialist subcontractor Steconefer have started work on behalf of Iarnród Éireann, to replace the existing track with new materials. This will involve laying new concrete sleepers and rails to match the existing track alignment, which will be welded to form continuous welded rail.

The track laying has now commenced near Askeaton and it is expected that all track will be laid the end of 2024.

Work started on the route early in 2023. Site clearance and removal of the existing track commenced in Spring 2023. Boundary fencing is nearing completion on the route. Robertstown Viaduct is planned to be installed over Summer 2024 and works to refurbish the river Deel bridge are complete.

Phase two of the project will include the provision of a signalling system for the route, CCTV level crossings, train communications system and track connections and upgrades at Limerick and at Foynes Port. Subject to funding allocation for phase two it is expected that this work will take 18 months to complete. It is anticipated that the route will be ready for operations in December 2025 with freight services commencing in early 2026.

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 the line remained under the stewardship of Iarnród Éireann.

The project aligns with and supports Iarnród Éireann’s Rail Freight 2040 Strategy, and the strategic review of the Shannon Foynes Port Company Masterplan, Vision 2041. The reopening of the Limerick to Foynes rail line for freight services also satisfies several EU, national, regional, and local development objectives. The proposed project contributes to objectives of common interest with the EU as defined in Article 7 of the TEN-T guideline, with the following specific contributions:

  • Interconnection of the modes of transport rail and ship services, promoting intermodal transport.
  • Promotion of environmental protection by strengthening freight transport via rail and sea rather than road transport.
  • Extension of interconnections.

The project is funded by the Department of Transport and National Transport Authority.

Steven McGee, COO, Ireland and UK Sisk said: “Sisk is proud to be delivering the biggest railway project in the country. Works are progressing well to date with the recent installation of the River Deel Bridge. The beginning of tracklaying marks another major milestone for Sisk and our track laying partner, Steconfer which will see 66,000 sleepers installed. Upon completion, the Limerick-Foynes freight railway line will be a major asset to the mid-west region to strengthen sustainable freight transport.”

Jim Meade, Chief Executive, Iarnród Éireann said: “I am delighted to see how well work is progressing on the Foynes to Limerick Freight line. The commencement of track laying is a key milestone for the project I look forward to more sustainable rail freight services once again operating on this route in 2026, benefiting the environment, the economy and businesses availing of the service.”

Minister for Transport, Éamon Ryan TD said: “The laying of these tracks marks a major milestone in reestablishing a rail link with one of our key ports, as recommended in the National Development Plan. It is also a significant first step in realising our overall aim to build and re-open rail for freight, and passengers, across the country. Re-opening the Limerick to Foynes line for the operation of rail freight services will play a vital role in promoting the shift from road to rail freight and will support us in meeting our decarbonisation goals”.