Iarnród Eireann facing serious funding gap as rural line costs the state €550 per journey

Irish Rail says it will need an extra €103m each year for the next five years in order to maintain its services

Iarnród Eireann facing serious funding gap as rural line costs the state €550 per journey

Alan Kelly (centre) with Labour party members outside Clerys on O'Connell Street in Dublin | Image: RollingNews.ie

Updated 17:25

A new report on the Irish railway system has found that Iarnród Éireann will need an extra €103m every year for the next five years in order to stay operational.

The Minister for Transport, Shane Ross delivered a National Transport Authority / Iarnród Éireann rail services review to cabinet this afternoon.

It said underfunding has brought the long-term viability and profitability of the operator into question with a number of rural lines now facing the prospect of closure.

Speaking this evening, the Head of the National Transport Authority, Anne Graham outlined the worst performing lines:

The report found there has been a significant backlog of maintenance and renewal activity in recent years - with essential works being put on the long finger.

It said the the exchequer will now have to take on more of the heavy maintenance costs in order to keep the operator operational.

Without significant state investment, the report warned that rural lines may be forced to close.

One of the lines in question caused controversy this morning when it emerged it has been carrying just 73 passengers a day - and costing the state €550 per person.

The route between Limerick and Ballybrophy was expanded to four services a day in 2012 when Labour Party TD, Alan Kelly was minister of state at the Department of Transport.

The line runs through Mr Kelly’s constituency of Tipperary and earns as little as €753 a day in passenger fares.

Fianna Fáil TD, Robert Troy questioned the thinking behind the decision to expand the line calling it an "ego trip" for Mr Kelly and a "most expensive re-election campaign."

Speaking to The Pat Kenny Show on Newstalk this morning, Mr Kelly said rural areas need proper investment in services in order to compete and attract industry into the future.

“People in rural Ireland are entitled to services as much as anyone in urban areas,” he said.

“Public transport is there for everyone, public transport is funded by the taxpayer and public transport is not profitable."

The service runs separately to the main Dublin to Limerick line which also passes the station at Ballybrophy.

Mr Kelly has campaigned to keep the line open and said getting rid of the service would see the “capacity for future investment in the area deteriorating significantly.”

He said alternative transport services “are not necessarily there” and pointed out that most public transport services are not profitable.

“The reason they are there in the first instance is to facilitate the public and for the greater good,” he said.

“The idea that you would make a decision to close down vital, vital infrastructure in rural Ireland to me is unacceptable and it would be unacceptable even if it wasn’t in Tipperary.