Saturday 27 May 2017

Stormy times ahead? Seven issues down the track for Irish Rail

Irish Rail has accumulated losses of €150m Photo: Colin Watters
Irish Rail has accumulated losses of €150m Photo: Colin Watters
Paul Melia

Paul Melia

It seems astonishing that a company with assets valued at more than €2bn and revenues approaching €235m in 2015 is so cash-strapped that it cannot afford a lick of paint.

Yet this is precisely the depths to which Irish Rail has fallen. Years of repeated cuts in State funding, which were already low by international standards, coupled with an immediate need to invest in ageing infrastructure, has resulted in station painting being deferred in an effort to save money.

This week it emerged the company has accumulated losses of €150m, and is forecast to lose another €11m this year. It needs a cash injection of some €103m every year for the next five to restore it to financial stability, or it will become insolvent.

Here are some of the issues - and solutions - down the track:

Finances: Irish Rail needs a cash injection of more than €103m a year until 2021, coupled with a payment of almost €42m until 2019 to compensate for cuts in recent years.

Solution: Government can either provide the money, or close lines.

Asset management: The company is underspending on maintenance and upgrades to track and signalling systems.

Solution: The Government must increase funding to ensure safety.

Capacity: Passenger numbers are up, and Irish Rail needs new fleet.

Solution: An interim solution is bringing Mark 2700 trains back into service at a cost of €300,000 per carriage. Installing airline style seating in new carriages, where four-seat tables are removed, would add eight passengers per carriage.

Lack of passengers

Solution: Begin an extensive public consultation to determine what services are needed. Give communities a period of time to use the service, or close it.

Grow commuter services

Solution: Capacity is available on some routes, and the Government needs to make using rail more attractive either by reducing fares or eliminating car parking charges and funding more frequent services.

Reduce journey times

Solution: Investing €14.4m reducing journey times by as much as 17 minutes on some routes would yield extra revenues of €6.4m a year.

Plan towns around railways

Solution: New housing, shops, offices and towns must be planned near existing lines.

Irish Independent

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