Iarnród Éireann records €2.5m surplus in spite of slump in passenger numbers

State-owned transport company also reveals 18% rise in anti-social behaviour on train services

An Irish Rail train travelling from Cork to Dublin. The State-owned company’s revenue from intercity services declined by 55 per cent last year to €61.4 million. Photograph: Iarnród Éireann stock pics.

An Irish Rail train travelling from Cork to Dublin. The State-owned company’s revenue from intercity services declined by 55 per cent last year to €61.4 million. Photograph: Iarnród Éireann stock pics.

 

Iarnród Éireann recorded a net surplus of €2.5 million last year with the assistance of State supports, despite a 64 per cent reduction in passenger numbers due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The company’s latest annual accounts show the surplus decreased by 40 per cent as passenger numbers fell from a record high of 50.1 million in 2019 to 17.9 million. Overall revenue dropped from €297.4 million in 2019 to €143.7 million last year.

Fare income

Passenger income accounted for €133 million of the decrease with revenue from intercity services down 55 per cent to €61.4 million.

Fare income on Dart services declined by 60 per cent to €19.1 million and was down 59 per cent to €20.3 million on commuter services.

Freight revenue remained largely unchanged at €3.8 million.

Iarnród Éireann chief executive Jim Meade said the company’s financial sustainability last year would not have been possible without the additional financial supports provided by the National Transport Authority and the Department of Transport.

The company received €21 million from the Government Stimulus package and €14.6 million from the wage support schemes put in place as a result of Covid-19, while the amount of Public Service Obligation funding by the NTA more than doubled to €198.9 million.

Mr Meade said the company was able to progress key capital projects during the year including the Dart expansion programme, and work on the tender process for up to 600 new electrical vehicles to meet future demand.

Anti-social behaviour

He acknowledged that the anti-social behaviour on train services had increased significantly with the number of incidents up 18 per cent to just under 1,400.

“While some of this can be attributed to enhanced reporting methods, it is a concerning trend that must be monitored closely,” Mr Meade said.

Iarnród Éireann chairman Frank Allen said capacity had been envisaged as an issue for the company at the outset of 2020 on the back of a record passenger number the previous year.

However, Mr Allen said Covid-19 meant capacity featured in a different way last year with passenger numbers limited at one stage to 25 per cent of normal levels due to the need to maintain social distancing on trains.

He claimed capacity challenges were likely to re-emerge as the vaccination programme rolled out and society opened up again.

“Definitely in the short to medium term, customers will want more physical space on public transport, necessitating increased levels of capacity aside from potential demand growth,” he said.

The State-owned company said it was projected to incur a loss in its commercial business this year with a return to surplus in 2022.

“There will be a significant shortfall in passenger revenue in 2021 which will require additional funding from the NTA similar to that provided in 2020,” it added.