Irish Rail is planning to run freight trains almost half a kilometre long to help grow its haulage business and reduce the number of trucks on the road.
The company has trialled a 440-metre, 27-wagon train which ran from North Wall in Dublin to Claremorris, Co Mayo, and plans to roll out the service across the State from later this year.
The train was the longest which had ever operated on the rail network, a spokesman said.
He added that the trials would see the maximum freight train size increase from 18 wagons (36 twenty-foot equivalent units, or TEUs) to 27 wagons (54 TEUs).
“As well as increasing the capacity and competitiveness of rail freight services, the environmental benefits of rail freight would also be enhanced,” he said.
“Currently, moving freight by rail instead of road reduces emissions up to 75pc per unit, and longer trains could see emissions reduced to as little as one-tenth of the road equivalent.”
In recent weeks, a container train of 27 wagons – stretching 440 metres and carrying 1,110 tonnes – has been operated.
A pulpwood train of 390 metres has also travelled the network, while another train was found to be capable of carrying 1,310 tonnes.
The rail operator said it was working with existing customers, as well as freight forwarders, ports and the Irish Exporters Association, to identify opportunities and trends for rail freight development within the Irish and European market.
Major rail freight traffic currently includes containers from Ballina to Waterford and Dublin Ports, pulpwood from Ballina and Westport to Waterford Port, and zinc ore from Tara Mines in Navan to Dublin Port.
The company hopes to begin the operation of longer freight trains from the last quarter of the year.