A NEW €226 million container terminal in Co Cork could affect the economic viability of ports in Waterford and Dublin, and result in traffic gridlock and more deaths on the roads.
These claims were made at a Bord Pleanála oral hearing yesterday by experts employed by the Port of Waterford, which is objecting to the Port of Cork’s plans to build a massive container terminal at the Oyster Bank, Ringaskiddy.
Andrew Thurley, a director of economics at PricewaterhouseCoopers, claimed the Ringaskiddy terminal’s large scale and planned capacity posed significant risks to other ports and could have “adverse socio-economic implications” on these ports’ hinterlands.
He added that the Ringaskiddy terminal could have over-capacity and could divert tonnage from other ports, potentially threatening the future viability of Dublin and Waterford ports in particular.
“The imminent opening of the improved N8 (Cork-Dublin road) will reduce onward distribution costs from Cork to Dublin, and improve the competitiveness of Cork port users in serving the Greater Dublin market,” Mr Thurley said.
This, he added, would allow the Port of Cork to expand its business catchment area.
Stephen Wood, an associate director of independent planning consultants Colin Buchanan, claimed the Ringaskiddy terminal posed significant risks to proper planning and sustainable development.
In particular, he said there was considerable concern about the impacts of HGV traffic during the construction and operation of the container terminal.
Mr Wood claimed construction would involve one HGV per minute bringing in-fill to the Oyster Bank site.
Also, he said when operational the terminal would “clearly add to congestion at the Jack Lynch tunnel and Dunkettle roundabout.”
Mr Wood maintained that the terminal’s construction shouldn’t begin until the N28 is upgraded.
He also referred to the fact that the Port of Cork overlooked the possibility of locating the proposed new terminal at the old IFI site at Marino Point, an alternative harbour site, which could have a spur-line rail connection to the Cork-Cobh line.
“It would be quite unfortunate if An Bord Pleanála was to give the go-ahead to such a strategically important transport development, which effectively locks in dependency on road freight and locks out the possibility of rail freight,” Mr Wood added.
Hugh Chaplain, director of transport for Colin Buchanan, was also critical of the Port of Cork’s decision not to look at a location with a rail connection.
He said that between 1994 and 2004 the cost of injuries and fatalities involving road freight vehicles in this country exceeded €5 billion.
During that period a total of 1,036 fatalities and 13,618 injuries were recorded as a result of road freight accidents. No rail freight train casualties were recorded during the same period.
“The key issue for the planning inspector to consider in regard to rail freight, is whether it’s acceptable for a port facility to be granted planning when no serious consideration has been given to the long-term provision of rail access as an alternative to a road only solution,” Mr Chaplain said.
Cormac McTernan, a chartered town planner with Colin Buchanan, said the Port of Waterford — which is connected to the national rail network — demonstrated that rail freight transport can be viable in Ireland.
He added that the Government’s current consultation on Sustainable Travel and Transport suggests a policy shift in favour of using rail freight.
Mr McTernan also claimed the information within the Port of Cork’s Environmental Impact Statement pertaining to Marino Point was inadequate in relation to fully assessing its suitability as a viable alternative to Ringaskiddy.
Independent objector Daniel Teegan, a property developer from Monkstown, claimed the Port of Cork wanted to make huge profits from redeveloping the Tivoli docks, and this was the “driving force” behind its plans to move operations to Ringaskiddy.
Mr Teegan said that if allowed proceed, the new container terminal would create “a hostile environment for local residents; a living nightmare in fact.”