In the Republic of Ireland, the Minister for Transport, acting through the Department of Transport, is responsible for the state's road network, rail network, public transport, airports and several other areas. Although some sections of road have been built using private or public-private funds, and are operated as toll roads, they are owned by the Irish government. The rail network is also state-owned and operated, while the government currently still owns the airports in the State (though the authorities running them are due to be privatised). Public transport is mainly in the hands of a statutory corporation, Córas Iompair Éireann, and its subsidiaries, Bus Átha Cliath (Dublin Bus), Bus Éireann (Irish Bus), and Iarnród Éireann (Irish Rail).
In Northern Ireland, the road network and railways are in state ownership. The Department for Regional Development is responsible for these and other areas (such as water services). Two of the three main airports in Northern Ireland are privately operated and owned. The exception is City of Derry Airport, which is owned and funded by Derry City Council. A statutory corporation, the Northern Ireland Transport Holding Company (which trades as Translink) operates public transport services through its three subsidiaries - Northern Ireland Railways Company Limited, Ulsterbus Limited, and Citybus Limited (now branded as Metro).
Ireland's railways are in State ownership, with Iarnrod Éireann (Irish Rail) operating services in the Republic and Northern Ireland Railways operating services in Northern Ireland. The two companies co-operate in providing the joint Enterprise service between Dublin and Belfast. InterCity services are provided between Dublin and the major towns and cities of the Republic, and between Belfast and Derry. Suburban railway networks operate in Dublin and Belfast, with a limited local services being offered in, or planned for, Cork, Limerick, and Galway.
Many lines in the west were decommissioned in the 1930s under Éamon de Valera, with a further large cull in services by both CIÉ and the UTA during the 1960s. There is a campaign to bring these back into service, in particular the Limerick-Sligo line (The Western Rail Corridor), to facilitate economic regeneration in the west, which has lagged behind the rest of the country. There is also a smaller campaign to re-establish the rail link between Sligo and Enniskillen/Omagh/Derry and Mullingar and Athlone/Galway
Since 1984 an electrically operated train service has run between Bray and Howth, called the Dublin Area Rapid Transit. In 2004 a light rail system, Luas, was opened in Dublin. As of September 2008 legal permission has been sought to build a metro system is also in the planning stage. The construction of the Luas system caused much disruption in Dublin; in retrospect many believe an underground would have been a better option. One of the current options being discussed is to upgrade the Luas to a metro system when the metro is being installed.
See also: History of rail transport in Ireland
Ireland's roads link Dublin with all the major cities (Cork, Limerick, Galway, Waterford, Belfast and Derry). Driving is on the left.
State-owned Bus Éireann (Irish Bus) provides most bus services in the Republic of Ireland, outside Dublin, including an express coach network connecting most cities in Ireland, along with local bus services in the provincial cities. There are also a number of private operators, the biggest of which include Aircoach, a subsidiary of First Group which provides services to Dublin Airport from Dublin city centre amongst others, and Scottish Citylink which competes on the Dublin-Galway route. Some private rural operators exist, such as Halpenny's in Blackrock, County Louth, who were the first private bus operator to run a public service in Ireland, Bus Feda, who operate twice daily routes from Ranafast, County Donegal to Galway and back , as well as Lough Swilly Bus Company.
Most cross-border services (e.g. Dublin city centre to Belfast) are run jointly between Bus Éireann and Ulsterbus, with some services run across the border exclusively by one of the two companies (e.g. Derry–Sligo run by Bus Éireann).
Ports in the Republic handle 3,600,000 travelers crossing the Irish Sea each year, amounting to 92% of all sea travel (CSO figures) This has been steadily dropping for a number of years (20% since 1999), probably as a result of low cost airlines.
Ferry connections between Britain and Ireland via the Irish Sea include the routes from Swansea to Cork, Fishguard and Pembroke to Rosslare, Holyhead to Dún Laoghaire, Stranraer to Belfast and Larne, and Cairnryan to Larne. There is also a connection between Liverpool and Belfast via the Isle of Man. The world's largest car ferry, Ulysses, is operated by Irish Ferries on the Dublin–Holyhead route. In addition, Rosslare and Cork run ferries to France.
The vast majority of heavy goods trade is done by sea. Northern Irish ports handle 10 megatonnes (Mt) of goods trade with Britain annually, while ports in the south handle 7.6 Mt, representing 50% and 40% respectively of total trade by weight.
Several potential Irish Sea tunnel projects have been proposed, most recently the "Tusker Tunnel" between the ports of Rosslare and Fishguard proposed by The Institute of Engineers of Ireland in 2004. IEI report (pdf) BBC report A different proposed route is between Dublin and Holyhead, proposed in 1997 by a leading British engineering firm, Symonds, for a rail tunnel from Dublin to Holyhead. Either tunnel, at 80 km, would be by far the longest in the world, and would cost an estimated €20bn.
Many regional airports exist, some flying to international destinations. For example Ireland West Airport Knock in County Mayo, Galway Airport, Sligo Airport, Kerry Airport and Waterford Airport. Services to the Aran Islands are operated from Connemara Regional Airport.
The Republic's former state airline, Aer Lingus provides air services from Dublin, Belfast Internatioanl, Cork and Shannon to Europe, North America and the Middle East. Dublin, Belfast Internatioanl, Cork and Shannon airports are run by the State body, Dublin Airport Authority (formerly Aer Rianta). Two other Irish airlines are Ryanair, one of the largest in Eurpose and Aer Arann. There are a number of other operates specialising in general aviation.
In 2007 the passenger numbers were as follows:
|1||Dublin||3||2637m / 8650ft||23,200,000|
|2||Belfast International||2||2780m / 9121ft||5,236,055|
|3||Shannon||2||3200m / 10496ft||3,620,000|
|4||Cork||2||2133m / 7000ft||3,200,000|
|5||Belfast City||1||1829m / 6000ft||2,186,877|
|6||Knock||1||2300m / 7546ft|
|7||City of Derry||2||1852m / 6076ft|
|8||Kerry||1||2000m / 6562ft||388,000|
|9||Galway||1||1350m / 4429ft||300,000|
|10||Waterford||1||1433m / 4700ft||116,000|
|11||Donegal||1||1500m / 4900ft||61,410|
|12||Sligo||1||1200m / 3933ft||34,000†|
|13||Abbeyshrule||1||799m / 2610ft||3,000†|
† Latest available figures for Sligo and Abbeyshrule are for 2006.
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