Limerick-Ballybrophy route described as an ‘expensive campaign’ for local TD Alan Kelly
A railway line between Limerick and Ballybrophy is costing €550 per passenger to operate, a report has found.
The review into rail services, drawn up by the National Transport Authority and Iarnród Éireann, is to be brought to Cabinet by Minister for Transport Shane Ross on Tuesday.
It will outline wide disparities in funding requirements for the various routes on the network.
For example, the subvention for every passenger journey on the Dart is 90 cent, while on the Limerick-Ballybrophy (via Nenagh) line it is €550.
The route was expanded in 2012 to four services a day when Labour TD Alan Kelly was minister of state at the Department of Transport.
The line, which runs through his constituency of Tipperary, carries as few as 73 passengers a day, and collects as little as €753 a day.
It is separate to the main Limerick-Dublin railway line, which also passes the station at Ballybrophy, Co Laois.
Mr Kelly has campaigned strongly to keep the line open, despite several calls for it to be shut down.
Fianna Fáil TD Robert Troy questioned whether Mr Kelly had abused his position as minister of state in establishing and maintaining the loss-making route.
“As a consequence of this decision were other services reduced to fund an ego trip for Alan Kelly?” Mr Troy said.
“ It was the start of the most expensive re-election campaign for him.”
Mr Kelly was contacted for comment yesterday, but did not return calls.
Mr Ross will warn his Cabinet colleagues today of potential closures across the rail network in a bid to address the financial deficit at Iarnród Éireann.
The Minister will stress that the company needs more than €640 million over the next five years to tackle its financial shortfall.
While the cost to the exchequer is to continue to grow, Mr Ross will warn services and the performance of the railway will deteriorate.
The memo, which has been seen by The Irish Times, says no decision will be taken on rail services in advance of a public consultation period.
Speaking on RTE’s Morning Ireland, Mr Kelly said he did not accept the report as it was presented in The Irish Times.
He said the route had been operating for generations but had not received the investment it requires.
Mr Kelly said the railway line had been allowed to deteriorate because of the lack of funding.
The Labour TD was asked if he had abused his position as minister of state at the Department of Transport in 2012 when the services on the line were expanded.
Mr Kelly said that was “absolutely outrageous and factually inaccurate”.
He said: “Deputy (Robert) Troy might want to reflect on that.
“He is following on from a comment by Sarah Bardon which said that this route is operating since 2012, this route operated for generations. Timetables all over the country have changed multiple times not just when I was Minister.
“Many rail user groups, many different organisations approach any Minister or CIE or Irish Rail or the NTA re timetabling,” he said. “Timetables change all the time, this is just lazy journalism.”
* This article was amended on November 15th, 2016. The Ballybrophy route was expanded when Labour TD Alan Kelly was minister of state at the Department of Transport, rather than started as originally reported.