Deputy Mick Wallace says it's significant that Irish Rail have outlined they want to invest in Rosslare Europort following decades of neglect.
Responding to the Iarnród Éireann's Submission to Ireland 2040 National Planning Framework, Wallace said it made logistical, economic, environmental and common sense that the Europort should be developed to provide an essential high-capacity transport link to mainland Europe, especially with the prospect of Brexit and a hard border with the UK.
In the submission Iarnrod Eireann said: the key strategic priorities for the port include 'to deepen the port to accommodate modern, larger high-capacity vessels; to develop the port into a multi modal facility including the development of a rail-freight interface.'
Deputy Wallace said: 'A hard border would most likely lead to our exporters being unable to use the UK land bridge to reach mainland Europe. That will have huge implications for all sectors, not least agriculture and the export of live cattle,' Wallace said.
'When I raised the issue of investing in Rosslare with Minster Ross I got a baffling response that his department are looking at developing the West and North West. Meanwhile, Environment Minister Naughten says there's potential for Shannon Foynes Port, which is on the TENT-T Core Network which uses the UK landbridge. The lack of common sense from these Ministers and their departments is frightening. Unless somebody has rotated the country on its axis, Rosslare is still the nearest Irish Seaport to the Continental Mainland. It has the added bonus of rail lines leading directly from the Port to both the north and west of the country. And that's before you take into account that County Wexford is one of the most deprived counties in the country, in a poorly performing economic region. Any development at Rosslare Europort would have the added benefit of helping to stimulate the area. The latest report from the South East Economic Monitor reinforces the urgent need to invest in the region,
'Irish Rail say their two priorities for the Europort are to deepen the port to accommodate modern larger high-capacity vessels and to develop the port into a multi-modal facility including the development of a rail-freight interface (as the port has an existing rail link). They also say the port has the potential to deliver significant benefits to the regional / national economy and act a strong counter-weight to Dublin, which is increasingly congested.'
However, the Wexford TD was slightly more cautious on whether Irish Rail's plans would ever come to fruition. 'Listen,' he said, 'we have a Minister for Transport who has shown bugger all interest in transport, let alone public transport. Nothing arouses a Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil or Labour politician than a big, wide road that will inevitably have to be replaced by a bigger, wider road. There's a mad culture in this country of believing public transport is all about building bigger roads.
'Spending millions widening roads encourages more cars on to those roads, encourages more cars into already gridlocked cities, encourages more carbon emissions as a greater volume of cars sit in the inevitable traffic jams. Transport emissions are growing at a time when this country is a long way off meeting specific targets to reduce them. Rosslare Europort and the connecting rail links provide the potential for a far cleaner transport method, but that kind of logical thinking would leave establishment politicians with nowhere to blow their horns."
'At the end of the day I've been calling for investment in Rosslare Europort, the Taoiseach has expressed an interest in investing in Rosslare Europort, and now the owners, Irish Rail, want to invest in Rosslare Europort. I'm cautiously optimistic we may be heading in the right direction.'