We need a floating motorway

I’M off to England on my holliers in a few weeks so we booked the ferry about three months ago. Isn’t that just crazy?

The question is: why do we have to book at all? Why don’t we have a proper ferry system where you can just turn up at the port and go?

The current system of having to book in advance in order to be sure of the ferry must be a serious barrier to tourism and business between Ireland and Britain.

Believe it or not, nearly as many trucks actually use the Holyhead route as cars, which is indicative of the awkwardness of using the ferry. Many people prefer to fly and hire a car.

What is required is a ‘floating motorway’ that would be open to traffic 24 hours a day with regular departures and fixed rates.

There are a number of obstacles to be overcome for such a system to operate.

Firstly, all traffic arriving and leaving through Dublin Port have to go through the city. But, of course, from 2005 that situation will cease when the Dublin Port Tunnel opens.

Secondly, there are two ports in Dublin city. The obvious answer here would be end the ferry to Dún Laoghaire Harbour. (See side panel).

The total current traffic on the Dublin/Holyhead route is about 600,000 cars. Some 500,000 trucks use the Dublin ports although this includes destinations to other UK ports and to Cherbourg.

So the potential is there to create a floating motorway and flexible departure times and ease of use would surely increase traffic enormously.

The arrival of catamarans was a great boost to the route but the trend for ever-larger conventional ferries seems to be continuing. What is required is smaller ferries and more frequent sailings.

Our peripherality is a serious challenge to our ability to attract industry and to get goods to market. Far too often exporters have to time their deliveries around the schedules of ferry companies, when the opposite should be the case.

Of course, the only body that can influence this situation is the Government and they don’t have any long-term vision for the Dublin/Holyhead route.

Maybe it will take some Ryanair type company to come in and change things.

Isn’t that depressing?

No more ferries to Dún Laoghaire?

Ending the ferry service to Dún Laoghaire may not be as unpopular as it sounds.

When the Dublin Port Tunnel opens Dún Laoghaire will become one of the largest generators of freight traffic in the city. The local council is sure to come under pressure to restrict lorries in the area.

Ditto with cars which have to approach the harbour through narrow already-crowded streets. And as many people in Dún Laoghaire will testify, few of the passing cars bringing any benefit to the town.

The big problem would be the loss of revenue to the Harbour. The answer there is to turn it into Ireland’s centre for water-based leisure sports.