Select Committee on Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum by Pembrokeshire County Council (P 36)

"OPPORTUNITIES AND DEVELOPMENT PROSPECT OF MAJOR PORTS"

  1.  Pembrokeshire County Council welcomes the opportunity to submit evidence to this enquiry. The County Council would have wished to have more time to prepare more detailed evidence but the time allowed for submission of evidence has precluded this.

  Pembrokeshire is located at the Western extremity of that section of the Cork to Moscow European Route E30. The ports of Fishguard and Pembroke Dock, both located within the County provide the primary links to Ireland along this corridor for both passenger and freight traffic. These ports have traditionally made a contribution to the local economy by the provision of direct employment at the ports and through the indirect benefits of the service industries associated with the running of these facilities. Increasingly, however, they are being viewed as significant potential contributors to tourism and other economic development eg from processing industries, and particularly so at present, given the rapid economic growth within the Southern Irish economy.

  3.  The local transport authorities within the South West region of Wales have come together to form the South West (Wales) Integrated Transport Consortium known as SWITCH which reports regularly to the South West Wales Economic Forum (SWWEF), and the West Wales Rail Forum. Recognising the need to deal with the transport implications of these developments, a study commissioned jointly on behalf of the West Wales Rail Forum and Irish Exporters Association has recently been completed commissioned by SWITCH aimed primarily at exploring the opportunities of dealing with freight in a more sustainable way with particular regard to the possibilities for transfer of freight from port to rail.

  4.  The study has identified annual current growth rates of 5.2 per cent for freight through the Republic of Ireland ports, ie a doubling of that trade every 14 years. Despite this, however, the study has also indentified that little potential exists of a modal shift to the increased use of rail for freight to rail in the foreseeable future. Handling and transfer facilities for freight from port to rail requires significant working space to be available to achieve that transfer within the port area. The study concludes that insufficient space exists at the port of Fishguard, notwithstanding that rail access into the port is readily achievable. At Pembroke Dock a different picture emerges whereby sufficient space exists to develop port to rail freight facilities but, in common with a number of port facilities within the UK, previous national transport policy has led to the removal of the former rail approach into the dockland area so that the railway network now stops approximately one mile short of the port. Furthermore, the completion of what would be a difficult reconnection of the rail into the port area would still see the rail distributor link from Pembroke Dock to the national rail network as sub-standard to take anything more than W6 gauge at present with potentially difficult engineering solutions to achieve an improvement.

  5.  It is intended to investigate further the potential for the rail freighting of food which the study identified as having some potential worthy of further exploration. However, this would focus on road to rail freight transfer and not port to rail.

  6.  The overall conclusions have highlighted the importance of Roll-on, Roll-off facilities at ports, a trade which is growing at 7 per cent per annum, and the associated need to address the quality of the road infrastructure. Growth in Freight/HGV traffic on both the A40 and A477 is forecast to be above the National projections over the next five years with a significant amount of this being related to the ports. One petrochemical Company has also signalled an increase in the use of these highways for road freighting of increased production. Additional shipping berths have already been progressed to cater for the delivery of raw materials. Concerns are regularly expressed regarding the increases both in accidents and hazardous loads transported on these two trunk roads into the ports.

  7.  Improving access and strategic infrastructure into the Western ports should also significantly improve the use of what is referred to as the Southern Corridor of the UK land-bridge for Irish trade with Europe. This corridor has significant attractions for the Roll-on, Roll-off trade and appears to have the potential to relieve some congestion currently experienced on the Central Corridors eg at Dublin and then on the English motorway system around Birmingham.

  8.  We understand that road accessibility is being improved to the Southern Irish ports which connects to Fishguard and Pembroke Dock particularly Rosslare. Those improvements would be given added impetus by the completion of the Southern corridor on UK mainland work which is in any event desperately required for the social and economic development and well being of the South West Wales region.

February 2001


 
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