About €6bn spent on public transport since 2008, Seanad told

Minister stresses need for value for money as senators express fears for rural services

“Anyone who uses the train regularly will have known for some time that people are just not using the rail network,’’ said Ned O’ Sullivan of Fianna Fáil. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

“Anyone who uses the train regularly will have known for some time that people are just not using the rail network,’’ said Ned O’ Sullivan of Fianna Fáil. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

 

About €6 billion has been spent on public transport since 2008, Minister for Transport Shane Ross told the Seanad.

“Even that figure excludes the cost of funding free travel and the tax-saver schemes,’’ he added.

Mr Ross said he agreed with those who believed there should be increased funding for public transport. But simply increasing funding was not the only the answer and they needed to be sure how existing money was spent and whether the taxpayer was getting value for money, he added.

He said the programme for government recognised the value and benefit of rural transport to communities, particularly in the case of older people vulnerable to social inclusion.

The allocation for rural transport in 2017 represented an almost 20 per cent increase on the previous year. He had recently announced increased funding for this year, he added.

Ned O’Sullivan (Fianna Fáil) said the report warning Iarnród Éireann could face insolvency was very worrying, particularly for those who lived in rural Ireland and remote parts of the country.

“It will be another real blow to rural Ireland if we cannot support and maintain the basic rail infrastructure that has been in place since Victorian times,’’ he added.

Mr O’Sullivan said it looked as if no rail line was making money apart from Dublin to Cork and, possibly, Dublin to Limerick, with all the branch lines in serious trouble.

“Anyone who uses the train regularly will have known for some time that people are just not using the rail network,’’ he added.

“There are many reasons for that, some quite positive and some quite negative.’’

Martin Conway (Fine Gael) said the issue should not come down between rural and urban Ireland.

“The reality is billions have been spent on transportation in Dublin city on the Luas cross-city service, and it is appropriate that this is the case,’’ he added.

“But people living in rural Ireland have the right to be able to commute from one town to another.’’