Fianna Fáil Transport spokesperson Timmy Dooley has criticised the Transport Minister for attacking the country’s rail services. Leo Varadkar has threatened to close a number of rail lines if the financial situation at Irish Rail does not improve.
“This is a cynical attack on our transport services, and our rural rail lines in particular. The Minister cannot be allowed to shut down services that provide a vital link between rural communities. It’s reported that dozens of lines could be affected, which would have a huge impact on many towns and villages”, commented Deputy Dooley.
“The Government has a social and economic obligation to maintain rail services across the country, and should not be allowed to sacrifice them because they are not turning a profit for the state. Many people rely on these services to go about their everyday business as they provide a link to larger towns and cities. Many rural transport services are already inadequate, and this move would be a further blow to communities dependent on public transport.
“I’m also concerned about the impact these closures will have on jobs. Irish Rail staff have already engaged in a major cost cutting plan, with the loss of 261 jobs. These cuts resulted in savings of €25 million euro last year. If rural rail lines are to close, job losses will no doubt follow. Rural Ireland has already paid the price for the economic collapse, with many small towns and villages seeing essential services taken away and local businesses closing down.
“This Government needs to learn from the mistakes of the past. Parts of the North West no longer have a rail link because of previous decisions to close tracks. The Minister cannot be allowed to alienate rural communities in order to subsidise projects in Dublin. Yesterday Minister Varadkar announced a €900 million plan to integrate public transport in the greater Dublin area. A fraction of that amount would secure the future of rail services in rural areas”.
“The Minister needs to outline his plans for the future of rail services clearly. I’m calling on him to set out a viable plan to maintain rural rail services, and ensure they’re not sacrificed in favour of increased investment in transport plans in and around the capital.
Fine Gael is already making moves to privatise the transport system, with an announcement last year that 10% of routes operated by Bus Éireann and Dublin Bus to be privatised, while Labour is remaining resolutely silent on the issue. It’s time the junior coalition partner found its voice and stood up for its beliefs”.