Dublin's Luas light rail system returned an annual surplus in 2005 making it unique among State-run mass transit systems in Ireland and only one of a few worldwide which does not require an operating subsidy.
The success was attributed at the launch of the 2005 annual report yesterday to the ability of the trams to continue attracting large numbers of passengers outside of peak times and into the evenings and weekends.
The 2005 surplus of just €0.2 million, while small, allowed the Railway Procurement Agency, the developers of Luas, to inform Minister for Transport Martin Cullen that his planned €2.32 million subvention would not be required. Last year was the first full year of operation for both lines.
The figures contrast with annual subsidies of €25 million for Bus Éireann, €65 million for Dublin Bus and €180 million for Iarnród Éireann.
Passenger numbers have risen rapidly on the Red and Green Lines since the launch, with annual average daily passenger journeys rising from 55,000 in December 2004 to 77,000 in December 2005. This represents a 40 per cent increase year on year to more than 22 million passenger journeys for 2005. Latest figures for May 2006 increased by a further 30 per cent on figures for May 2005.
While crowding on the trams has become a problem, from September the frequency of trams on the Green Line from Sandyford is to be increased to every four minutes - subject to negotiations with the system operator Veolia Transport - formerly Connex.
The system has the capacity to increase further to one tram every three minutes before electrical engineering work is required.
Capacity on the Red Line is to be increased by 40 per cent in 2007, when the trams are increased in length from 30 metres to 40 metres.
Railway Procurement Agency chief executive Frank Allen said the high passenger numbers were due to a peak frequency of one tram every five minutes.
Crucially, passenger numbers had kept up during the day as shoppers used the trams to go into the city centre and at night as people sought entertainment in the city.