Monday 20 November 2017

Irish Rail's not getting any more cash, vows Varadkar

Leo Varadkar
Leo Varadkar
Joyce Fegan

Joyce Fegan

IRISH Rail is in a very bad way, but it is not getting any more money from the Transport Department, warned Minister Leo Varadkar.

The senior minister said the Government gave €36m to Irish Rail two years ago and no more funds will be made available to the cash-strapped transport network.

"The financial position of the company is very bad," admitted Mr Varadkar.

"The Government can't do any more than it has two years ago, to the tune of €36m, on the understanding that things will change and since then it hasn't been possible to get the cost savings that are necessary so I have no more money for Irish Rail," said the minister.

He said that everyone is aware of the dire financial situation, including the Government, the semi-State company and the unions, who have seen "all of the books".

Negotiations between Irish Rail and its staff are currently under way in the Labour Court to find €4.6m of savings a year.

A document by the semi-State company says its 3,768 workers' unwillingness to accept the 1.7pc wage reduction threatens its future and that it could go bust as a result. The company said that the failure to reach an agreement is costing them €100,000 a week.

However, the minister is still optimistic about the transport provider's future.

"I certainly hope it doesn't go bust by 2015 or 2016," said Mr Varadkar.

"I don't want to contemplate the alternative – redundancies and line closures – and I really hope we don't have to go down that route and that we can continue with our current policy of maintaining services and employment levels," he said.

He did, however, back Bus Eireann, saying that had his department more money for public transport, that's where he would put it.

"If I did have more money for public transport, as I've said before, I'd put it into Bus Eireann and rural transport services that provide a much greater return for the money coming in," said Mr Varadkar.

A spokesman for Irish Rail said that it made significant cost savings last year compared with 2012: for example, running an extra half a billion kilometres in train journeys.

He said it also made cash savings of €25m, delivered increased services in spite of cuts, and had an increased revenue of €8.3m in 2013.

Irish Independent

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