Ireland’s network of public roads extends for 92,300km. The network comprises national roads (5,400km), regional roads (10,600km) and local roads (76,300km). There are 26 km of road per 1,000 population; roughly twice as much as in Belgium, France or Denmark, and over three times as much as in the Netherlands, Italy or Spain.
Within the network, national primary roads (2,700km) are the major long distance through-routes linking the principal ports, airports, cities and large towns. National secondary roads (2,700km) are the medium distance through-routes connecting important towns. The national route system represents 6% of the overall road network but carries 38% of total road traffic. Regional roads are the main feeder routes into, and provide the main links between, the national roads. The remainder of the network (80%) is made up of local roads which serve the transport needs and requirements of urban areas and local communities.
The National Roads Authority was established in 1993 to oversee the development of the roads network. It has overall responsibility for planning and supervising the construction, improvement and maintenance of the network. It has a mandate to complete the development of the primary network by the year 2005 with a view to enabling inter-urban travel to take place at a speed of 80 kilometres per hour.The Operational Programme for Transport maps out a strategy for a total investment programme of IR£1.65 billion in roads infrastructure over the six years 1994-1999.
The importance of road transport to the economic and social development of the country is illustrated by the following:
Bus Átha Cliath has a fleet of nearly 850 buses and provides an extensive service over a 1,000 sq km area of the Dublin conurbation. It caters for a population of more than a million and over 160 million passenger journeys are made with the company each year.
Bus Éireann provides public transport by coach outside the Dublin area. The company’s services include a network of inter-urban bus services, rural bus services throughout the country, and urban bus services in Cork, Limerick, Galway and Waterford. There are over 60 million passenger journeys on Bus Éireann services each year.
CIE International Tours specialises in coach tours of Ireland. The company has offices in London, New York, Paris, Dusseldorf and Dublin. Apart from CIE, 1,400 private bus owners operate a fleet of 3,600 buses. Most of these operators concentrate on non-scheduled services such as school transport and coach tours.
The present railway network consists of a radial system of 1,900 route kilometres with Dublin as the focal point. The rail gauge is 1,600 mm, differing from the rest of Europe but common to the Republic and Northern Ireland. CIE’s rail company Iarnród Éireann/Irish Rail operates passenger and freight services. Rail (including DART) carries 26 million passengers annually, providing direct intercity services between Dublin and Cork, Limerick, Galway and other significant centres of population. Railfreight carries 633,000 tonne kms and 85% is import/export traffic. Iarnród Eireann also operates a roadfreight service.
The cross-border Cork/Dublin/Belfast line, a high speed Trans European Network, is being upgraded with 75% co-financing by the EU.TheDublin Area Rapid Transit (DART) provides a passenger service over38 km of track using electric motive power along the Dublin coastal area. The system includes the original stretch between central Dublin and Dun Laoghaire, the world’s first commuter railway, opened in 1834.
The international airports at Dublin, Shannon and Cork handle about 8 million passengers and 94,000 tonnes of freight annually. The busiest airport is Dublin with annual traffic of 6 million passengers and over 65,000 tonnes of freight. Many international airlines provide scheduled services between Ireland and destinations in Europe and North America. There is also a large volume of charter traffic.
Irish airlines providing scheduled and/or charter services to and from Ireland include Aer Lingus, CityJet, Ryanair and Translift Airways. A number of small aviation companies provide passenger, freight and helicopter services within the country using the network of regional airports. These are located at Donegal, Galway, Kerry, Knock, Sligo and Waterford.
Aer Lingus is the State owned-airline. It operates a fleet of 29 aircraft comprising mainly B737’s and Airbus A330’s. The airline also operates Fokker 50’s and Saab 340B’s. Scheduled services are operated to 27 cities in the United Kingdom, Europe and North America. Charter services are operated to a wide range of destinations. The airline carries approximately 4 million passengers and 45,000 tonnes of freight annually.
Dublin, Shannon and Cork international airports are managed by Aer Rianta, a public company. Aer Rianta’s subsidiary, Aer Rianta International, manages a number of airports abroad and operates duty-free facilities at several locations throughout the world.
External trade is exceptionally dependent on seaports which account for 76% of trade in volume terms and 60% of exports in value terms. Techniques in shipping and cargo handling have changed dramatically in recent years and ports have developed their facilities accordingly. Dublin and Cork are the State’s multi-modal ports, handling all types of unitised and bulk cargoes. The construction of a new load-on/load-off (Lo/Lo) terminal at Belview has enabled Waterford Harbour to become potentially the largest and most up-to-date Lo/Lo handling port in the country. Rosslare, Dun Laoghaire, Cork and Dublin are the country’s passenger/car ferry ports. Other harbours deal predominantly in bulk cargoes. The largest of these are located at Limerick, Foynes, Drogheda, Dundalk, Galway, Wicklow, Arklow and New Ross.
A number of companies provide passenger car-ferry services to and from Ireland. Irish Ferries operate daily services to Britain on the Dublin-Holyhead and Rosslare-Pembroke routes. Irish Ferries are preparing to introduce a new Superferry on the Dublin-Holyhead route from 1995.
Stena Sealink has daily services to and from Britain on the Dun Laoghaire-Holyhead and Rosslare-Fishguard routes. The companyintends introducing a new high speed service vessel from 1995 on the Dun Laoghaire-Holyhead route. This ferry could be capable of crossing the Irish Sea in 99 minutes.
Irish Ferries operate services to France, connecting Rosslare and Cork with Le Havre and Cherbourg and a further service, to Roscoff, is planned for later in 1995. Brittany Ferries run weekly services from Cork to Roscoff between March and October, and from May to September they link Cork with St. Malo. Swansea Cork Ferries run a daily service from Cork to Swansea between March and January.The Irish registered shipping fleet (100 gross tons and over) comprised 79 ships totalling 161,786 gross tons at 30 June, 1994.
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