Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Transport Robert Troy TD has called on Minister Shane Ross to appear before the Oireachtas Transport Committee to discuss the funding crisis facing Irish Rail.
The financial position of the State – owned rail operator has been steadily declining in recent years and the company is expected to lose close to €6 million this year.
Deputy Troy said, “Irish Rail is experiencing an unprecedented funding crisis which threatens our entire rail network. The company is facing insolvency and there is a real prospect of trains coming to a halt in the foreseeable future if the Government doesn’t take action to strengthen the position of the company.
“Minister Ross seems to be following the same strategy he employed when dealing with the problems facing Bus Éireann. He has failed to acknowledge the seriousness of the situation and has refused to set out his vision for the future of rail transport in Ireland. He seems to be waiting for the train network to come to a standstill before actually dealing with the crisis.
“Minister Ross needs to recognise that the delivery of a high quality rail service requires investment. The British Government attempted to run its rail network on the cheap over the last two decades by pursuing a privatisation agenda. This decision has since proven to have been both short-sighted and irresponsible. Ireland cannot make the same mistakes made by our close neighbours.
“Public transport has been starved of investment in recent years. The PSO levy needs to be increased to make up for years of under-investment. The Free Travel Scheme is also chronically under resourced. It has effectively been capped since 2009 yet demand under the scheme has soared since then. Irish Rail cannot be expected to provide a service for free. The State has to face up to its obligations under the Free Travel Scheme.
“Minister Ross and his colleagues need to make a case to the European Commission for greater flexibility on the Fiscal Rules to allow for investment in our transport infrastructure. Prioritising infrastructure spending represents an investment in the future of the country. Ireland’s level of capital spending is the second lowest in Europe. This is simply unsustainable. The Government should also be working to secure funding from the European Investment Bank for critical transport investment.
“Minister Ross needs to get to grips with the crisis facing Irish Rail. He should avail of the opportunity to appear before the Oireachtas Transport Committee to spell out his plan for putting the company on a stable footing.”