UP TO €5m per year is being spent running empty passenger trains by Iarnród Éireann as the state railway company prepares to increase the price of annual tickets by 15% due to rising fuel costs.
Confidential internal timetables indicate that the company's empty services now clock up over 500,000km of mileage per year – enough to get to the moon, the Sunday Tribune can reveal.
Iarnród Éireann runs over 350 empty trains a week, ranging from rush-hour Darts in Dublin to late trains from Longford, Maynooth and Drogheda to Dublin.
A company spokesman defended these services, saying that they were necessary to ensure the efficient running of the state's railways.
However, almost 20% of the empty mileage is attributable to Iarnród Éireann's refusal to decentralise drivers to commuter centres such as Gorey, Arklow and Carlow. Instead, it runs empty trains each morning to these locations from Dublin to collect city-bound commuters.
"The argument that it would be more efficient to locate these trains at these stations and have mini-depots is deeply flawed," said an Iarnród Éireann spokesman.
"We can make best use of driver resources by quickly despatching trains in early morning from large depots, to get trains into position for the morning peak-time requirements."