A new rail freight service offering industry a "green" option for transporting goods between the southeast and the west of the country has been launched at the Port of Waterford.

The weekly service, building to twice-weekly within two months, is the work of Iarnród Éireann and XPO Logistics and will carry freight between the port and Ballina in County Mayo.

It has the potential to take over 5,000 truck movements from the roads every year, with a resulting reduction in road congestion and a reduction in emissions.

The new service comes as Iarnród Éireann is finalising a new national rail freight strategy to identify growth and investment opportunities to significantly grow rail freight operations.

"We are entering a very exciting phase where rail freight can offer key solutions for the movement of freight as the country addresses both environmental and congestion challenges in this sector," Iarnród Éireann chief executive Jim Meade said.

"We are currently finalising a very ambitious strategic plan for the growth of rail freight between key locations across the country," he said.

"Today's announcement with XPO and Waterford Port demonstrates the viable opportunities that can be developed that will not just support industry and the logistics sector but is also fully aligned with the country's climate action plan," Mr Meade added.

XPO Logistics managing director for UK and Ireland transport, Dan Myers, said that the solutions to tackle the "critical global challenge" of climate change will take "a concerted effort, coordinated action and cooperation.

"Our collaborative, end-to-end service with Irish Rail - where XPO provides the booking of rail freight movements, drayage trucking of containers, and services such as cross-docking - is a double win," he said.

"Our customers have new, eco-friendly transport options, and our planet wins as supply chains become greener. It's another step in our collective journey to a carbon-neutral future," Mr Myers added.

Port of Waterford chief executive Frank Ronan said the freight trains will work "very effectively with the port's Lo-Lo shipping services to provide businesses in Ireland's west/north-west with a compelling logistics solution to and from mainland Europe".

The new service has also been welcomed by the Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan, who described it as a "climate-friendly option" and said rail and other sustainable solutions "will play an important role on our journey to achieving net-zero emissions by 2050".

The new rail freight service between Ballina and Waterford is in addition to existing rail freight operations, which include container traffic from Ballina to Dublin Port; pulpwood from Ballina and Westport to Waterford Port; zinc ore from Tara Mines in Navan to Dublin Port.