Sunday 17 December 2017

€1.4m cuts threat as 10-minute Dart service is derailed

Dermot O Leary. Photo: Frank Mc Grath
Dermot O Leary. Photo: Frank Mc Grath

Anne-Marie Walsh

Irish Rail has warned unions it will seek cuts worth €1.4m if it fails to introduce a new 10- minute Dart service.

In a letter to Siptu and the NBRU, it describes its difficulty in bringing in the more frequent service as a "missed opportunity" and says its finances are worsening as it borrows to pay its bills and wages.

It was sent as the commercial semi-state company decided to postpone the new service that would have improved on the current 15-minute service, due to "union intransigence".

The 10-minute service was due to start on April 10.

But unions have refused to attend talks on the new service until progress had been made on a pay claim that takes account of recent proposals for pay rises at the Luas.

The letter from Irish Rail's Director of Human Resources, Ciaran Masterson, says the company remains in an extremely difficult financial position and will only emerge from this by meeting customers' needs.

"Your position in relation to the 10-minute Dart service will further damage our financial position," he tells the unions.


"In 2016 we had an assumed income from this initiative of €1.4m. We will now seek further cost savings to compensate this lost opportunity."

Mr Masterson said he was bitterly disappointed that the unions would not engage in talks on the introduction of the new Dart timetable last week.

The NBRU has warned of a long campaign of industrial action in the coming months, which would affect 60,000 passengers a day, if Irish Rail refuses talks on its pay claim.

It accused Irish Rail of "peddling untruths" regarding the availability of newly-trained drivers to operate the new 10- minute service.

Dermot O'Leary, general secretary of the NBRU, said blaming Dart drivers and their unions for the postponement of the 10-minute service is "disingenuous in the extreme".

He said Irish Rail's comments are designed to deflect from the fact that management at Irish Rail did not carry out the necessary advance planning for recruitment or talks with staff.

The union chief said it was refusing to engage with worker representatives on pay when passenger numbers and revenue are heading back to peak levels.

In a response to Mr Masterson's letter, he said the attitude being shown to staff was "nothing short of contemptible".

He said it was bad enough having to succumb to pay cuts to address financial circumstances in 2012 and 2013 but said the "sheer insolence" shown by some senior management in claiming kudos for receiving supplementary exchequer funding added "insult to injury".

"It is a sad indictment when a once proud public transport service provider has to resort to becoming a caricature of Oliver Twist, in 'Please Sir, I want some more' in order to run a train service," Mr O'Leary said. He said state subvention fell from €189m in 2007 to €117m in 2014.

He said the supplementary funding received was tantamount to placing a sticking plaster on a gaping wound.

Taxpayers contribute roughly €3.60 per journey on Irish Rail services, while in the UK the subsidy is around €8, he said.

While staff numbers were reduced by 37pc since 2002, he said passenger numbers were inching towards peak levels, and revenue had risen from €195m in 2013 to €236.9m last year.

"Short-termism and fire brigade-style reactionary tactics is no way to run a transport system," Mr O'Leary said.

Irish Independent

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