CIÉ losses quadruple to top €66m as it warns over impact of travel curbs

State public transport group cites restrictions as one of the uncertainties it faces this year

Buses and trains are only allowed carry half their total passenger capacity as part of ongoing curbs.  File photograph: Arthur Carron/Collins

Buses and trains are only allowed carry half their total passenger capacity as part of ongoing curbs. File photograph: Arthur Carron/Collins

 

Ongoing Government Covid-19 curbs could hit the State’s public transport firms this year, parent company CIÉ has warned in its annual report.

Losses at the State-owned parent of Bus Éireann, Dublin Bus and Irish Rail more than quadrupled last year to €66.86 million from €14.41 million in 2019, accounts published on Thursday show.

Chairwoman Fiona Ross and board member Liam O’Rourke highlighted ongoing Government travel restrictions as one of the uncertainties facing the business this year.

Buses and trains are only allowed to carry half their total passenger capacity as part of ongoing curbs, but the Government has indicated that it could lift this limit in August.

The directors stated that a fall in passenger numbers, along with the need to protect the group’s workers, has hit finances in the short term.

However, the report acknowledged that State funding and aid from the National Transport Authority reduced this impact.

CIÉ said the fall in revenues from the ongoing restrictions, leading to a continued reliance on exchequer funding, are among the principal uncertainties facing the group.

Pension schemes

The report also stated that the group’s pension schemes had a combined deficit of €975 million at the end of last year.

Ms Ross noted in the report that workers have accepted proposals to tackle the shortfall in the wages scheme, whose members include most employees.

She added that CIÉ had accepted a Labour Court recommendation to deal with the management scheme deficit, which covers more than 2,000 staff.

CIÉ’s revenues fell to €1.2 billion last year from €1.36 billion in 2019, according to its annual report.

Its operations lost €58.6 million in 2020 against a €3.3 million profit the previous year.

The group had a €10 million interest bill, but a €1.8 million credit brought the overall loss to €66.86 million.

Public service obligation payments totalling €418.6 million from the Government bolstered revenues last year. The equivalent figure in 2019 was €184.2 million.

Overall State funding for the group increased to €638 million last year from €309 million in 2019, partly as a result of Covid wage subsidies and other pandemic supports.

Ms Ross noted that the board last year backed a two-year plan to tackle financial problems created by the pandemic.

“The magnitude of the sudden impact of Covid-19 on the group has necessitated the adoption of this short-term strategy which is primarily focused on ensuring the financial stability of the group while also progressing wider strategic goals,” she said.

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