Minister queries Irish Rail's denials of overcrowding on DART
TRANSPORT Minister Leo Varadkar has questioned Irish Rail's denial of overcrowding on DART trains.
In September the rail company reduced the number of carriages on DART trains during quieter periods, as part of a cost-cutting programme.
"Iarnrod Eireann assured us that they could do this off-peak without causing overcrowding," Mr Varadkar told the Irish Independent. "Other people are telling me otherwise."
The change introduced two-carriage trains at off-peak times – the mid-morning to mid-afternoon period, and after 7pm at night. Irish Rail said 65pc of passengers travel in the four hours around the morning and evening commute.
But passengers have been highly critical of the service reduction, with many saying they think shorter trains are also running during peak times.
Mr Varadkar will meet with Irish Rail today to review how its cost-saving measures are impacting customers and causing over-crowding.
The removal of carriages was part of a sweeping cost-cutting programme introduced by the national rail operator after revenues declined by almost €35m between 2008 and 2012 despite hikes in ticket prices.
The Government's contribution to the semi-state organisation, the Public Service Obligation will be further reduced next year to €209.7m.
"It's being done to save fuel," said Mr Varadkar of the decision to reduce the carriages.
The move is expected to save €3.2m a year.
The removal of carriages in an attempt to save money is the latest in a spate of service disruptions that have hit rail commuters in recent months.
Works aimed at increasing capacity resulted in severe disruption to DART and other train services over the October bank holiday weekend.
And earlier last month drivers refused to carry out the normal "coupler" checks to ensure carriages were safely joined together.
Fine Gael TD Simon Harris, who represents the Wicklow constituency, said the dispute left people "stranded and late for work".
His office recently carried the results from a survey of North Wicklow commuters that sought to establish "exactly how chaotic their commute into Dublin has become" since the carriage reduction policy began. The results will be presented to the Government soon.
"The results I have received so far have been startling and clearly highlight how chaotic the DART service has become," said Mr Harris.
"Examples range from cancelled trains with no prior notice or communication on the national airwaves to four carriage trains leaving Greystones late during rush hour with standing room only."