Government to provide €162 million lifeline for cash-strapped Iarnród Éireann
Paschal Donohoe to brief Oireachtas on extra transport funding
A looming cash crisis at CIÉ seems to have been averted by a Government decision to provide an additional €162 in finding for transport and sport. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien/The Irish Times
A looming cash crisis at CIÉ seems to have been averted by a Government decision to provide an additional €162 in finding for transport and sport.
Minister for Transport Paschal Donohoe is to brief TDs and Senators on the finer details of the supplementary estimate next week, but the news is already being seen as an 11th hour, lifeline for cash-strapped Iarnród Éireann.
The additional funding, which has to be approved by the Dáil is to be used to fill financial holes in public transport, roads, smarter travel, tourism and sport.
Some €41million of the money relates to expenditure on Government commitments already made to stimulate jobs in the construction industry.
Severe weather damage caused by storms last February and the resultant repair bill will account for €21m of the money, leaving some €100 million to be allocated to the public transport sector.
This will allow for priorities including bus fleet renewal and a heavy rail safety and development programme at Iarnród Éireann.
The Department of Transport has already warned Government Iarnród Éireann was facing a shortfall of €95million, an issue that was so serious “the extent of the railway network, in the context of demand levels on routes, must be critically examined” it said.
In its Strategic Framework for Investment in Land Transport the department said there was a need “for a new rail policy” and the new policy should address “What extent of the rail network is it appropriate to retain”.
Former minister Leo Varadkar had also spoken of the closure of some lines as a possibility and speculation had centered on low-passenger uptake on the Western Rail corridor form Ennis to Galway; the Limerick to Waterford Route and the Ballybrophy - Nenagh line.
CIÉ too took the unusual step of commenting publicly on the cash crisis facing the company, saying it was in discussions with the National Transport Authority on what levels of service would be appropriate to its levels of funding.
There was no comment from the company last night.
The Government in the recent budget decided not to increase the level of subvention for public transport, but Mr Donohoe said he was hoping to ramp up the State investment in land transport generally and was “confident that we will be able to deal with the many difficulties in Irish Rail. “