Rail review suggests cutting loss-making routes or reducing fares to attract passengers

A long-awaited review of loss-making rail services has suggested cutting unprofitable routes, improving journey times, or even reducing fares to attract passengers.

Transport Minister Shane Ross will present the National Transport Authority (NTA) review to Cabinet today, which also highlights the wide disparity in how some routes are funded.

One example notes the public subvention for each passenger journey on the Dart in Dublin is €0.90. This compares to €550 for each user on the line from Limerick to Ballybrophy.

A Government source said: “This points in the direction of a crisis point for Irish Rail.”

The review is understood to suggest Irish Rail needs several hundred million euro, possibly up to €600m, over the next five years to ensure financial stability.

Government sources confirmed the report will recommend large sections of the rail network be closed to save money. Mr Ross has faced criticism from Opposition TDs who claim he received the report some time ago and sat on it. He is expected to also announce a period of public consultation over rail services today, which will feed into later recommendations about services.

Sources said the review would assess possible measures to reduce Irish Rail’s funding gap. Aside from increased exchequer funding, the review estimates savings from the closure of the network’s least profitable routes.

It identifies wide disparities in the funding requirement for various routes on the network. This includes examining the subvention requirement per passenger journey on each route, based on the running costs for those routes.

“Until Iarnród Éireann’s financial situation is rectified, the eventual costs to the Exchequer will continue to grow, while performance of the railway deteriorates. In the short-term, bridging the funding gap is necessary to prevent this,” the memo on the report says.

Losses at Irish Rail are now calculated at up to €103m a year. The review will also suggest passengers could be encouraged more to leave their cars and use rail and this would benefit the environment as well as help boost Irish Rail’s revenues.

Mr Ross is expected to publish the review after it goes to Cabinet today. Its contents though could prove difficult for ministers and Government TDs to address, given they could involve potential losses to some rail routes in constituencies.

Any potential reductions in subventions or funding for Irish Rail would likely be decided in the context of the next budget .

It is understood the report also examines the closure of the Limerick to Waterford line as well links to the West. The NTA review was carried out with Irish Rail.


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