Select Committee on Welsh Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Memorandum submitted by Irish Ferries


Investment and Expansion of Ferry Services, Pembroke Dock

  Irish Ferries and its predecessor B+I have operated ferry services from Pembroke Dock since 1979. In 1997, together with the Milford Haven Port Authority, we made a substantial investment on the Pembroke to Rosslare route, with the arrival of the 23,000 tonne MV "Isle of Innisfree". With a capacity on each of the four daily sailings, of 600 cars or 95 freight vehicles and 1650 passengers, it was the largest ferry operating from South Wales. As part of the investment, a two tier shore ramp was installed, only the second such facility in Wales. (The other ramp being built in Holyhead in 1995 to service our operation at that Port).

  In May 2001, the MV "Isle of Innisfree" was replaced with an even larger vessel, The MV "Isle of Irishmore". With her capacity for 800 cars or 122 freight vehicles and 2,200 passengers, it represents a further significant increase in capacity on the Pembroke to Rosslare route.

  As a result of this investment, we have seen a significant increase in both passenger and freight business. This is shown on the enclosed throughput summary, with details of our annual carryings, from 1996 to 2001. We have also shown the maximum number of vehicles that could be carried in any one year, based on the capacity of the ship currently on this service.

Road Access Pembroke Dock

  Currently there is good access across the M4 Corridor, with a dual carriageway to the A40 at St Clears. From there to the Port of Pembroke Dock, it is single lane carriageway and around the arrival and departure times of the ship, this road can become very congested. The Road improvements for the Sageston and Redberth by-passes are most welcome and we sincerely hope that this reduces risk at these accident black spots. However, as they remain single lane carriageways, they will not reduce congestion at the peak times.

  We understand that a study of traffic volumes was undertaken some time ago, to determine the need for a further upgrade of the road access. We would like to ensure that this study takes into account, the further increase in traffic volumes, from May 2001, following the arrival of the MV "Isle of Innishmore".

  We are given to understand that there are plans to continue the dual carriageway from St Clears to the County Seat at Haverfordwest. However if this takes ferry traffic, particularly heavy goods vehicles (HGV's) off the A477, towards Haverfordwest, we need to be certain that the road linking this new road to Pembroke Dock will be capable of taking the traffic volumes and weights.

Investment and Expansion of Ferry Services—Holyhead

  We have operated services from Holyhead since 1982 and in 1995 we undertook a major development and expansion program in the Port, together with the owners of the Port. The MV "Isle of Innisfree", referred to earlier in this report, launched our expansion plans for our Holyhead to Dublin Service, leading to a significant increase in the throughput of passenger and freight vehicles.

  This program of expansion has continued, with the arrival of our new fast craft service in 1999. The "Jonathan Swift" has capacity for 200 cars/or 12 coaches and 80 cars. This vessel is capable making eight sailings a day in the peak periods.

  2001 saw the arrival of the MV "Ulysses" on the Holyhead to Dublin service. At 52,000 tonnes, with a capacity for 1350 cars/or 240 HGV's and 1,900 passengers, she is the largest vessel of her type in the world.

  We have enclosed a summary of our carryings in Holyhead, from 1995 to date, which reflects the level of investment and clearly shows the dramatic increase in vehicles through the port.

Road Access Holyhead Port.

  The great improvement of the A55 across the island of Anglesey has dramatically reduced transit times for all vehicles and is of significant benefit to those commercial and tourism interests using this crucial link between Ireland and Wales. In addition the investment in Port infrastucture means that we now offer a modern and highly flexible service that is as good as it gets.

  However there remains one fundamental problem to be addressed and that is the bottleneck that exists for traffic at the exit/entrance to Holyhead Port. All vehicles have to traverse "Black Bridge" this is not congruent with best practice. When the development of Holyhead Port was being finalised, negotiations took place with the owners of the land in the vicinity of "Black Bridge". The intention was to install a fly-over to proceed directly across this junction, however agreement could not be reached at the time and we are left with this unacceptable congestion point that is a problem for local interests as well as commercial and tourism transport.

  We are aware that Anglesey County Council is looking at options to resolve this problem and we now look to you to take the necessary measures to develop an acceptable outcome for all concerned.


  The Port of Pembroke does not have any direct rail links, with the railway track ceasing about one mile from the Port. Substantial investment would be required to provide rail links to the Port.

  In terms of business potential for any such rail connection, the volume of potential passenger business would be very low. In relation to the freight business, it would also require considerable investment, not only in Port infrastructure, but also in Rail links to the Port. It would also require major investment in the rail track network, to allow the mode of "Piggyback" rail traffic to be fully developed.

  Our own research into this has shown that the Irish Road Haulage Industry, in general terms, could be perceived as viewing "Piggyback" as a threat, rather than a viable business development. The lack of a developed "Piggyback" network throughout the UK would mean in reality that transit times would be slow with the "Piggyback" option.

  The Port of Holyhead has good rail-links directly into the Port, for passenger traffic, but is in a very similar situation to Pembroke Dock, in terms of business potential for rail freight traffic.


  With the scope of investment by Irish Ferries and the Port Owners of both Pembroke Dock and Holyhead Port we have excellent Port Facilities, which are capable of handling the predicted growth in the markets over the next five years.

  With the growth in freight traffic and its future potential growth, together with the increase in legal vehicle weights, we are likely to reach a stage where rail-freight will become a viable option.

  We are aware that Anglesey County Council has commissioned a study into rail-freight, including the potential costs for linking into the West Coast Mainline. We believe that the present position does not justify any investment in this area at this time.

  However we would like to see a coordinated long term approach to the strategic importance of working towards the transfer of a percentage of the freight market, at the Welsh Ports, from road to rail.

Paddy Walsh

General Manager

28 June 2002

19951996 19971998 199920002001
Passengers344,000340,000 567,000521,000495,000 446,000388,000
Cars79,20082,400 157,700131,300126,100 131,000115,300
Freight18,40018,000 29,60045,00053,000 55,00059,800

Passengers790,000834,000 865,000909,0001,010,000 1,151,0001,158,000
Cars130,800133,100 135,800163,700193,200 227,000222,300
Freight45,50073,000 84,70099,000103,000 107,000121,000

Maximum Carryings based on Current Capacity

  (Note: Based on Freight only night sailings and cars only day sailings)

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