Surplus trains on track to be used, Varadkar insists
Published 26/01/2013 | 05:00
TRANSPORT Minister Leo Varadkar has said the 21 idle Irish Rail trains will be used, despite initially telling the embattled semi-state company to consider selling them off.
But the carriages, worth €44m, cannot be sold because they have been altered to fit Irish train tracks.
Irish tracks have a gauge only found in a small number of other countries such as Australia, India and Brazil.
However, Mr Varadkar admits the extra cars are "surplus to requirement". They are worth €2m each, and were part of an order of 234 railcars made during the boom years.
But Irish Rail is insisting the cars are used in rotation and to "future proof" its network for a pick-up in passengers.
"The situation is that the rail carriages were ordered back in 2008 under the Fianna Fail-Green government," Mr Varadkar said.
"They are surplus to requirement. I was made aware of it a few months ago by Irish Rail and I told them at that stage to either sell them or make use of them.
"But it doesn't make sense to sell them, as they're narrow gauge. They're rolling stock that were designed for a narrow gauge railway and would need to be adapted before they're sold. So it doesn't make sense to sell them.
"So what they do at the moment is make use of them for special events and they use them in rotation with the rest of the fleet, which then extends the length and value of that fleet."
The details of the surplus carriages emerged at a Public Accounts Committee (PAC) hearing this week, and chairman John McGuinness has ordered the National Transport Authority (NTA) to compile a report on the issue.
He wants the NTA to detail the procurement process, the cost of storing the carriages, as well as maintenance costs.
The PAC will also question the Department of Transport on the carriages in two weeks.
But Mr Varadkar accepted the carriages are being put to use at the moment.
"Anyone who manages a fleet will know that you have fleet of cars or fleet of buses and you don't use them all, all the time," he said yesterday.
"You use them as efficiently as possible. It's a little bit like having three suits of clothes. If you have three suits, it'll last longer than having two, and that's essentially what's being done."
Irish IndependentFollow @Independent_ie