Rail strike to hit World Cup play-off
Crunch football qualifier and traditional Christmas shopping day to be affected by train stoppages
Five days of strikes on the railways will hit commuters as well as Christmas shoppers and more than 51,000 football fans attending Ireland's World Cup playoff against Denmark.
Some 155,000 daily commuters on Irish Rail's Dart, Intercity and commuter trains will be left without a service for five days in November and December after union members backed strike action.
The dates of the series of 24-hour rolling strikes include the sold-out November 14 showdown between Ireland and Denmark at the Aviva Stadium for the second leg of the football World Cup qualifier.
Other dates include November 1, 7, 23 and Friday December 8 - the day marking the start of the Christmas shopping season when people from outside Dublin traditionally venture to the capital.
The dates were announced in a statement from the Iarnród Éireann Trade Union Group last night.
It came after the unions rejected the company's offer of a 1.75pc pay increase over a year. They are seeking a 3.75pc annual pay increase.
Siptu's Greg Ennis said the pay request was reasonable, but Irish Rail argued that its accumulated losses already stand at €160m and it is "dangerously close to insolvency".
Iarnród Éireann issued a statement saying management "regrets the decision by a group of unions including Siptu, NBRU, TSSA and Unite, to schedule five 24-hour strikes during November and December".
The series of strikes will have a knock-on effect for all bus, rail and Luas users, as well as motorists.
AA spokesman Conor Faughnan said they will cause travel chaos for hundreds of thousands of people - especially those in the greater Dublin area.
"If a major plank of the transport system is taken out, you can pretty well guarantee there will be traffic jams," he said.
"It will be really frustrating for hundreds of thousands of commuters. It puts pressure on everything - including parking," he said.
"It will add to delays for ordinary commuters, even those who haven't been on a train for years. It's going to significantly inhibit the country."
Bus Éireann said it was anticipating increased demand on its inner-city and suburban services and would try to add additional buses on busy routes. But due to the sheer volume of demand, some commuters may be discommoded and people should book a seat ahead of time if possible.
Dublin Bus is also anticipating a massive knock-on effect. But because morning and evening rush hour buses are already running at full capacity, it is not ruling out the prospect of passengers being left at the side of the road during busy periods.
Luas officials were unavailable for comment last night but it is expected the strike will also lead to congestion on trams.
An Irish Rail spokesman said the unions' decision to strike, after talks broke down at the Workplace Relations Commission on Thursday night, was regrettable. "The effect of this industrial action will be clear. There will be disruption to customers, and uncertainty over a prolonged period will lose us business," he said.
"Employees will lose pay for days of industrial action. Our precarious finances will be weakened further, in a situation where accumulated losses are €160m, and the company is dangerously close to insolvency. Our ability to address the pay claim will be reduced," he said, adding the company remains open to talks to avert the strike.