IARNROD Eireann has defended imposing charges to use its car parks, saying its €5-a-week fee is considerably cheaper than parking in Dublin city centre.
Yesterday, it emerged that thousands of motorists who leave their cars at train stations will face extra charges next year, as the transport company expands the number of pay-parking facilities in the Dublin commuter belt.
Motorists could see the cost of their daily commute soar by more than €250 a year, as the railway company expects to expand the number of fee-based car parks.
"We're dealing with increased services planned under Transport 21, and the vast majority of our car parks are full by 7.30am," Iarnrod Eireann spokesman Barry Kenny said.
"There is ongoing costs in relation to maintenance of CCTV and so on, and €5 a week is not a massive sum.
"This is simply about covering the cost. If there is any surplus, it will be reinvested in the service, but we wouldn't anticipate any. The only other way (to pay for these improvements) is to factor in the cost into the rail ticket.
"People who live within walking distance of stations got into the habit of driving. The car parks now come from a wider catchment area.
"The €5 is moderate in terms of time saved by not having to drive to work and paying car parking charges in the city centre."
A car park at Sallins, Co Kildare, which is due to open next month, will have a daily charge of €2 -- or a weekly charge of €5 -- and another car park at nearby Newbridge will also impose a charge.
Other stations where it is planned to impose a fee include Rush, Portmarnock and Lusk in north Dublin, Drogheda, Co Louth, and Coolmine in Dublin 15.
Iarnrod Eireann has said that it is also considering building multi-storey car parks in Drogheda, Coolmine and Portmarnock.
When Gormanston station in Co Meath was opened last September, after it was expanded from 90 to 250 parking spaces, a fee was introduced.
Pay-parking has also been introduced in Leixlip/Louisa Bridge in Co Kildare, while Tullamore, Co Offaly, and Arklow, Co Wicklow, also impose a daily charge.
Recent census figures show that 57pc of commuters drove a car to work in 2006, compared with 55pc in 2002.