Record movement of goods vehicles helped cross-border traffic recover significantly in 2022

A lorry on the N1/A1 road crosses the border from Louth into Co Armagh, one of 15 crossings monitored by Transport Infrastructure Ireland. Picture by Brian Lawless/PA

THE volume of traffic crossing the border recovered significantly during 2022, with record levels of articulated HGVs and LGVs (large goods vehicles) detected.

Official Irish government statistics from Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII) counted 46.5 million vehicle movements at 15 border crossings last year.

It was the second highest annual total since the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (Nisra) began collating the figures in 2013.

While there are officially 208 border roads, the TII measures traffic at the busiest crossings, such as the N1/A1 at Jonesborough, the N2/A5 at Emyvale and the N14 at Lifford/Strabane.

Before the Covid-19 pandemic, border traffic had been increasing year-on-year, peaking at 47.2 million vehicles in 2019.

The 2022 total was 7.7 million higher than 2021 and just 1.45 per cent below the 2019 peak.

But significantly it was higher than the 46 million vehicles counted in 2018.

While movements of cars and buses in 2022 remained down on the 2019 peak volumes, the number of goods vehicles hit record levels in 2022.

Trade data published by statistics bodies in both Belfast and Dublin has pointed to significant growth in the value of cross-border trade since the introduction of the Northern Ireland Protocol in 2021.

The latest TII figures appear to reflect the physical manifestation of that growth in trade.

The 6.25 million LGVs crossing the 15 border roads in 2022 was around 775,000 more than in 2019.

The volume of cross-border articulated HGV traffic was actually falling before the

pandemic, declining in both 2019 and 2020.

But the numbers increased year-on-year in 2021 and 2022, hitting a record 2.9 million last year.

The volume of rigid HGV vehicles crossing the border initially grew in 2021, but fell to 936,545 last year, around 125,000 below 2019.

That could reflect the poor performance of the construction industry in 2022, where rigid HGVs play a key role, such as in the supply of cement.

The bulk of the border traffic in 2022 (76.5 per cent) was comprised of cars. The 35.6 million cars counted at the 15 crossings was almost 7 million up on 2021.

Although 1.38 million down on the record 36.96 million from 2019, it was in line with 2018 volumes.

Bus traffic increased by 35 per cent last year to 324,091 crossings. But that was still 18 per cent down on the 2019 peak of 396,128.