Oireachtas Joint Committee on Transport

Oireachtas joint committee on Transport and Communications Networks held in Leinster House on Tuesday 16th of February 2021. Committee Room 4, LH 2000 The Review to Renew; the public consultation element of the National Development Plan. In attendance were Mr Jim Meade, Chief Executive, Irish Rail Mr Peter Muldoon, Director Capital Investment, Irish Rail Mr Barry Kenny, Corporate Communications Manager, Irish Rail Mr Glenn Carr, General Manager, Rail Freight & Rosslare Europort Mr Eoin McGettigan, CEO, Port of Cork Company Mr Henry Kingston, Port Engineering Manager, Port of Cork Company Mr Colin Dunne, Joint Managing Director, International Warehousing and Transport Mr Frank Ronan, Chief Executive, Port of Waterford.

Transcripts from the 2 hour meeting are here; https://www.oireachtas.ie/en/debates/debate/joint_committee_on_transport_and_communications_networks/2021-02-16/

Video of the full meeting can be viewed here; https://media.heanet.ie/page/8bb735b6d90c438a963cf4af9514565f

Jim Meade ;

On the case of the western rail corridor, at the request of, and subject to the terms of reference within the Department of Transport, we did commission a report that was undertaken by EY. It is a financial and economical appraisal on proposals to extend the western rail corridor, as outlined before, ultimately to Claremorris in two phases from Athenry to Tuam and then Tuam to Claremorris. The terms of reference specified in that appraisal were that we must ensure that any extension of the WRC meets all of the relevant appraisal procedures and value-for-money tests required under the public spending code.

The report was submitted to the Department in July 2020. It was subject to an independent review, commissioned by the Department, with the Joint Assistance to Support Projects in the European Regions, JASPERS. Neither report supported the extension of the WRC based on the terms of reference set out in it.

Dara Callery;

My second question is on the EY report, which has been referred to a lot today. Who commissioned it? Was it Irish Rail or the Department of Transport? What was the final cost of the report?

As he knows, it will be discussed again and there are many concerns about that particular report, about how it arrived at its conclusions and about the data used, but that is for another day. I want to know who commissioned it and who paid for it, and what level of engagement there was between Irish Rail management and EY in the preparation of the report.

What is Irish Rail’s policy on greenways? Does it give up disused lines to them relatively easily or does it have a plan for lines that may not currently be used? To use the phrase Mr. Meade has just used, if a heavy user or an anchor tenant was to come looking for them, would they be available? What if someone comes looking for a greenway to be put on that line before the anchor tenant? Has Irish Rail not just given up an asset without giving it much consideration?

Jim Meade ;

As regards the western rail corridor[/b], subject to the terms of reference detailed with the Department of Transport, we commissioned EY to undertake that study of the western rail corridor. EY then went about its business and it referred back to us if it needed detail. However, it was commissioned to do an independent report and it was allowed to do an independent report. That report was subsequently reviewed by Jasper Consulting and, as we know, neither the review nor the report supported the extension of the western rail corridor based on the terms of reference that were set out at the time.

We always support greenways, although there is a caveat on any greenway licence we currently have out there. I remind the Deputy we do not set the requirements for public transport. That is the remit of the Department. We operate the existing rail service and while we support greenways and come up with some of the ideas, and we also have the expertise in the industry, it is ultimately a decision for the Government and Department if they want to extend, expand or put in new rail services. The greenway is a win-win for both because it keeps the asset in State ownership and utilised, and if there is a decision at some point in the future that the asset needs to go back into a public transport mode, the licensing arrangement is such that it can do so.

Video clip from the committee meeting;

Alan Dillon questioned the validity of the reports commissioned by Irish Rail. Again, Mr Jim Meade CEO of Irish Rail was quite clear on the matter.

Alan Dillon ;

On the western rail corridor EY report, what type of analysis or peer review was undertaken by Iarnród Éireann which commissioned this report? Following critical analysis, some major flaws and errors were identified in the report. I would like to get an understanding of what peer review was undertaken.

Jim Meade ;

We are part of the steering group for the all-Ireland rail review. The scope and terms of reference have not been fully defined and this is still a work in progress with the Department. We will have an input and one of my team will sit on the steering group.

The western rail corridor will have its place as part of the terms of reference and will be looked at again.

On the peer review, as with any report there were several iterations back and forth in the Department. We had a link person working on it so it was reviewed in house. I am aware there are a few deep data errors in the report that were not picked up in the final draft but I do not think they made any substantive difference to the outcome of the report.

Video clip from the committee meeting;