Updated: 25/10/16 : 05:05:29
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Sligo train threat unless cash cough-up by State

Special Report

INSOLVENCY AT Iarnrod Eireann could impinge on services on the Sligo line. 

The lack of adequate State investment over the past decade has escalated some safety risks on several rail lines across the country.

Now, the Minister for Transport Shane Ross has been told that €600 million needs to be invested in the service over the next five years.

Without that funding, large chunks of the Irish rail network could close.

The stark scenarios have been explained to Minister Ross in a specially commissioned report already on his desk.

He now plans to hold a public consultation on the issues, the Minister said yesterday.

Quarter Century

Train services to Sligo were last under threat a quarter century ago, in the early 1990s.

Local businessman Seamus Monaghan mobilised a public campaign which held protests in Dublin and outside the Dail.

The subsequent Celtic Tiger book saw a major upgrade with State spending on rolling stock, computerised signalling and greater frequency of services everywhere.

Sligo has had a direct rail link to Dublin since the mainline was extended from Longford in the early 1860s.

Passengers Increase

The latest review, in draft form, was prepared by the National Transport Authority and Iarnrod Eireann. It warns:-

1. A number of rail lines may be forced to close as Iarnród Éireann is threatened with insolvency;

2. The country’s rail infrastructure has deteriorated to such a degree -- due to funding shortages -- that there are now increased safety risks;

3. In the absence of any additional Government funding, large chunks of the rail network would have to close to eliminate the funding gap;

4. That would leave only the Dart, Dublin and Cork commuter routes and inter-city services from Dublin to Cork, Belfast and Limerick. 

Ironically, the numbers using railway have started to rise again after the economic crash.

But Iarnród Éireann will still lose about €11 million this year, the report predicts.

The draft document examined possible solutions for the financial sustainability of Iarnrod Eireann.

A copy of the document was published by The Irish Times yesterday, Monday.

Accumulated losses were €150 million between 2007 and 2015, the report notes.

The rail service delivered €76 million in savings in the same period.

However, those 'savings' included reduced State funding and also falling numbers.

“The company cannot incur further losses as it will become insolvent,” the report warns.

Minister Ross has been told the rail company would need an additional €144.6 million in 2017, €158.4 million in 2018 and €154.8 million in 2019. 

This requirement would fall to €93.4 million in 2020 and €90.6 million in 2021.

Link to Oireachtas Transport Committee sitting last week: