NORTHERN IRELAND'S 330km rail network will be forced to close unless the Government agrees to a massive injection of cash, according to a report on the infrastructure's condition.
All 700 employees of network operator Northern Ireland Railways last week received letters from their employer saying their jobs were at risk.
The threat follows a report by management consultant Arthur D Little, published in March, which highlighted the need for £183M to be spent over the next decade. While meeting safety standards now, the report said the investment was required for the continued safe operation of the railways.
A spokesman for the Department for Regional Development in Northern Ireland said: 'There will be no compromise on safety.
The railways need more money investing or they will have to shut.' It is estimated that £120M of the money must be spent in the first three years. Northern Ireland is currently allocated just £30M a year for all public transport.
A task force has been set up by the DRD to look at the options.
These include mothballing or closure of all lines and keeping just the Belfast to Dublin line.
The task force is expected to report back at the end of July ahead of the Government's comprehensive spending review.
Northern Ireland Railways was founded in 1968 to operate the railway services of the former Ulster Transport Authority.
The railway system comprises approximately 330km of track including the Belfast to Dublin main line.