AFTER Irish Rail told the Labour Court last week that closing four lines would help their ailing financial position, staff at the troubled semi-State service have replied threatening all out strike.
This Tuesday, staffing unions have threatened the action if their pay demands are not met as they say increases have not been made in ten years.
However, Iarnród Éireann maintains that it is at risk of insolvency as they face a dire financial positing with debts of €160m.
The transport body says that losses will hit €6m by the end of the year and last week submitted that closing four rail lines would help them save millions.
Two routes were in Limerick while the Limerick to Galway route between Ennis and Athenry was also earmarked for axing along with the Gorey line in Wexford.
As a tense five week negotiation period begins this week between rail bosses and staff, union bosses have said that if talks fail, they would seek a mandate for industrial action from their members.
Responding to the current impasse and possible line closures, Limerick TD Willie O’Dea said that Irish Rail should make “their services more attractive to commuters”.
The Limerick TD has called on Minister for Transport Shane Ross to take decisive action to help Irish Rail overcome its current funding difficulties.
He said that plans to close routes were deeply concerning as “Irish Rail should be focusing on growing rail services, but instead management seem transfixed on wanting to axe as many routes as possible.
“Closing rail lines may offer a temporary reprieve to funding issues, but ultimately it only serves to hollow-out the company in the long run which will only exacerbate the funding crisis.
“Irish Rail have to make their services more attractive to commuters. How can Irish Rail complain about under use when the only return service to Castleconnell from Limerick city on weekdays is at 4.55pm when most commuters are still in work”.
Deputy O’Dea also citied the notable difference in travel time to Galway by rail compared to by car.
“If you wish to commute to work to Galway by train, you have to get a 5.55am train from Limerick which takes two hours 15 minutes compared to around one hour 30 minutes by car.
The Limerick TD said that Minister Ross needs to come forward to stem the flow of losses and offer solutions to the ailing service.
An increase to the Public Service Allocation for Irish Rail had been suggested by the Limerick TD’s party in 2016 as well as increasing the funding under the Free Travel Scheme.
“The Government needs to recognise that it is impossible to grow rail services without making the necessary investment”, he said.
SIPTU Union bosses involved in the wrangle have also said that despite having the fastest growing population in the EU, spending on infrastructure in Ireland is half what it was seven years ago as they call on Government to take “corrective action”.
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