We defend Public Transport! (Of Irish Rail and EU Privatisation)


As Iarnród Éireann’s contract for operating train services is due to expire in 2019, the National Bus and Rail Union claims that it will vehemently oppose any move towards privatisation [1].

In recent months, the EU Commission has been pressing for changes which would see Irish Rail opened up to tenders from competitors [2]. The successful operation of the Luas by French company Veolia has convinced EU officials that there would be sufficient demand by other investors for the rail contract [2].

General Secretary of the NBRU Dermot O’Leary said: “The argument for privatising rail does not stand up, it is a failed political ideology driven by neo-liberal zealots, who on the one hand champion austerity, whilst on the other they push for public services to be siphoned off to those who place profit ahead of service. Privatising Rail in the UK has failed miserably in terms of providing value for the taxpayer, its subsidy having trebled since privatisation. The irony here is that Irish Rail is seriously underfunded. Giving the operation of services over to the private sector, where profit is demanded, will inevitably lead to the death knell for a large portion of Irelands railways” [1].

Mr. O’Leary went on to say: “The notion that privatisation and competition will drive down fares is a misnomer, again one need only look at the UK where a worker will spend 18.5% of his average industrial wage on his annual commute from Milton Keynes to London, the same worker in Ireland will spend 8% of his salary on his ticket from Portlaoise to Dublin” [1].

The provision of public transport on a not-for-profit basis is also vital to reducing carbon-emissions and to creating an ecologically sustainable society. In a recent Environmental Protection Agency report, 100% of respondents to a survey of local authorities felt that local public transport services were inadequate in their local areas; an estimated 380,000 people living in rural areas do not have access to the transport services they require [3]. Climate change provides us with compelling reasons not just for the defence of public transport services but for their radical re-imagination, reconstruction and expansion.

WORDS: Tom Murray

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 [1] NBRU Press Release 30 July 2015. Available at http://nbru.ie/union/index.php/press-release/nbru-says-rail-privatisation-is-afailed-political-ideology-driven-by-neo-liberal-zealots/

[2] Suzanne Lynch, Martin Wall, “Irish Rail faces bankruptcy if it loses tender, Government warns”. Irish Times. Tuesday, August 4, 2015.

[3] See Tom Murray, “Striking Bus Drivers or Climate Warriors? Notes on Ireland’s Eco-Transport Struggles”. Available at http://www.wsm.ie/c/striking-bus-drivers-climate-warriors