Ross insists no decision made on closing train lines
Transport Minister Shane Ross has insisted that no decisions on closing rail lines will be made until next year at the earliest.
He said a public consultation on the network must be completed and a report compiled by the National Transport Authority (NTA) before the discussion moved to a potential reduction in services.
Mr Ross denied that the Limerick to Ballybrophy line, which is being subsidised to the tune of €552 per passenger, was facing closure despite what he called "political provocation" from Tipperary TD Alan Kelly.
Mr Ross addressed the Seanad yesterday on developments in his department with a heavy focus placed on the rail review which he presented to Cabinet this week. It warned that Irish Rail would have to shut lines over safety concerns unless an additional €128m a year was provided until 2021.
Lines under threat include Gorey to Rosslare, Limerick Junction to Waterford and the section of the Galway to Limerick line between Ennis and Athenry.
"No decisions are being sought or taken at this point," Mr Ross said.
"I have made clear that decisions are not being contemplated until after there is a full process of public consultation."
He added that the NTA had started a consultation period "on the role of rail in Ireland and funding its delivery".
"The review is a strategic examination of the role of Iarnród Éireann and the financial resources required to continue to provide services on a sustainable basis," he said.
"The review also provides an analysis of the company's financial position, some possible funding solutions and some proposals for measures to grow passenger numbers."
The NTA's public consultation will run until early in the new year.
Mr Ross also addressed the issue of road safety, describing the increase in road deaths this year as "highly disturbing". He said no single factor was to blame and no one action was likely to turn around the problem.
However, he added that drink-driving had "once again become a serious problem". So far this year 165 people have been killed on the roads.