Sunday 18 March 2018

Irish Rail earmarks four routes for axe as it warns pay rise will push it 'towards insolvency'

Anne-Marie Walsh

Irish Rail has earmarked four routes that may be axed if a serious shortfall in its funding is not met and warned that a pay rise sought for staff would push it to the brink of insolvency this year.

In a submission to the Labour Court, seen by the Irish Independent, it says it is in a "perilous financial state" and spells out the options that could land on Transport Minister Shane Ross's desk in the near future.

These include closing routes with the largest State subvention per journey.

The document also reveals that the subsidy for the Limerick to Ballybrophy route is a massive €761.60 per passenger journey, compared with just 70 cent per journey on the Dart.

Click to view full size graphic
Click to view full size graphic

It said it could save €17.6m a year by shutting down Limerick to Ballybrophy, Limerick Junction to Waterford, Ennis to Athenry on the Limerick to Galway route and Gorey to Rosslare on the Dublin to Rosslare route.

It said the closure of the Limerick to Ballybrophy and Limerick Junction to Waterford lines would yield over €5m a year each.

The closure of the section of the Gorey to Rosslare route would bring in €4.4m, while shutting the Ennis to Athenry route would raise another €2.8m.

It said line closures are among the options mooted in a rail review by the company and the National Transport Authority if the Government does not produce the required funding.

The document also said that giving a 3.75pc a year pay rise sought by unions and making it retrospective to June 1 last year would "result in an immediate financial crisis".


It said if pay rises were not funded by extra productivity they would "have a catastrophic impact" on its financial situation.

Irish Rail said its accumulated losses since 2007 stand at €159m and it requires significant additional funding each year up to 2021, ranging from €90m to €158m a year.

The company's submission to the court is a supplementary one drawn up to give greater detail on its financial position as it resists a pay claim lodged by unions.

Unions initially lodged a claim for a 21pc wage increase over three years, although they later amended this to bring it into line with a 3.75pc pay hike that was awarded at Dublin Bus.

However, sources said that the final settlement for drivers might more closely mirror a cash boost of over 2pc a year on offer in the recent draft pay deal for the public sector that is currently being voted on.

This would bring the drivers' overall increase close to 3.75pc, as it would include a 1.15pc pay rise recently awarded by the court for past productivity measures.

The document says every route in the country needs State subvention.

"In relation to network reductions and line closures it should be noted that every rail service in the country requires subvention ranging from 70 cent per passenger journey on the Dart up to €761.60 on the Limerick to Ballybrophy line," it said.

In said in relation to the potential for line closures, it was listing the routes that have the largest subventions per journey.

The Rail Review said the earliest date for implementation of route closures would be the beginning of next year.

In a notice to members last week, unions for rail workers, Unite, TSSA, TEEU, Siptu and the NBRU told members they would pursue all avenues through State institutions to progress the pay claim.

"However, if we find that Iarnrod Éireann is not 'playing ball' then we will immediately seek a mandate for industrial action in order to force the company to 'do right by its own staff'," said the notice.

Irish Independent

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