Tuesday, 10 July 1962
Dáil Eireann Debate
Minister for Transport and Power (Mr. Childers): I move that the Bill be now read a Second Time. The purpose of this Bill is to extend the existing  statutory powers of guarantee vested in the Minister for Finance in respect of Córas Iompair Éireann.
Deputies will be already aware that there is provision in existing legislation covering the borrowing of moneys for capital purposes by CIE and the guaranteeing of such borrowings by the Minister for Finance.
Under subsection (2) of Section 30 of the Transport Act, 1950, the Minister for Finance is empowered to guarantee the repayment as to principal and interest of moneys borrowed by CIE under the provisions of that Act. Guarantees under subsection (2) of Section 30 of the Act relate to guarantees of borrowing for long-term capital requirements. CIE may also borrow for short-term requirements and the Minister for Finance is empowered also under subsection (1) of Section 30 of the same Act to guarantee such borrowings. The maximum amounts which the Minister for Finance may guarantee have been amended by the Transport Act, 1955, and the GNR Act, 1958. Under those Acts the upper limits of borrowing by CIE which might be guaranteed by the Minister for Finance were raised to £12m. for long-term and £1½m. for short-term borrowings.
The present Bill is intended to serve a purpose rather different from the existing statutory provisions governing guarantees by the Minister for Finance. The existing provisions empower the Minister for Finance to give guarantees only in respect of borrowings. The present Bill is designed to enable the Minister for Finance to guarantee, in addition to borrowings, the payment by CIE of moneys due by the Board on foot of contracts entered into.
CIE had received an attractive offer of extended payments at favourable terms for the purchase of new diesel locomotives. The terms of contract provided for payment in instalments over a period of five years, with interest at the rate of 5½ per cent. per annum on the balance outstanding subject to a Government guarantee. As the law stood, the statutory powers  of the Minister for Finance did not enable him to give a guarantee in the terms required.
It is the view of the Government that acceptance of favourable credit terms such as were offered in this case should not be prejudiced by the absence of a statutory power enabling the Minister for Finance to give the required guarantee when the Minister for Finance is, in fact, already empowered to give a guarantee in respect of borrowings.
The existing statutory limit for borrowing for long-term purposes by CIE has been reached by the recent £2m. stock issue and it is not intended to propose a new upper limit for such capital borrowing by CIE until the position of the whole organisation comes to be reviewed towards the expiry of the five-year trial period provided for in the Transport Act, 1958. In any event, it was desired to accept the particularly favourable extended credit terms which were obtainable in the present case. A payment scheme of this kind amounts, in fact, to a pay-as-you-earn scheme which is a wholesome arrangement for an organisation faced, as CIE is, with the obligation to pay its way.
While the Bill gives general powers of guarantee in order to cover possible future cases of a similar type, it also makes specific reference to guaranteeing the payment of instalments specified in the contract already referred to. The reason for the taking of power to give this specific guarantee is to implement an undertaking given by the Government to CIE that power would, in fact, be sought from the Oireachtas to guarantee this specific contract. It was necessary to give such undertaking in order that CIE could enter into the contract and thus secure the early delivery of the locomotives which they require. I should say, of course, that the Government were fully satisfied that C.I.E.'s decision to acquire the locomotives is commercially sound. These locomotives are indeed essential for the maintenance of an effcient railway system even if the system has to be on a somewhat smaller scale than at present. The locomotives will, in addition, enable CIE to achieve substantial  economies in operation and thus help the Board to achieve its statutory obligation to pay its way.
It is the intention of C.I.E. to dispense with all steam traction. The number of diesel engines that will be in commission when the 37 new engines have been delivered relates to the maintenance of the main arterial rail renewals.
The position here is similar to that in other countries. Railways provide an economic satisfactory service for long haul fast passenger traffic when the trains do not have too frequent stops, and for certain types of long haul goods traffic. They also fill a need in certain suburban areas while the arterial services are able to deal satisfactorily with special peak traffics and with the influx of tourists during the holiday period.
The order for these diesel engines indicates the confidence that a main line railway system has an important part to play in the public transport section of our economy. Much will depend on the growth of productivity within the system and on definite agreements between management and staff that an intelligent attitude will be taken on the question of increases in costs in relation to productivity.
In view of the interest which many Deputies have expressed in the future policy of CIE, I have asked Dr. Andrews to send a copy of his recent address to the Institute of Public Administration to each member of the House.
Mr. Dillon: The sum is substantial, and in his remarks introducing the Bill the Minister seemed to be somewhat inadequate in that I would have imagined he would have taken the occasion to say to us that, in ordering this machinery for which the House is supposed to provide the necessary guarantee, he could give us a specific assurance that competitive tenders were sought and that the most advantageous tender was accepted.
So far as I can learn from the Minister's statement, we have no information of what preliminary precautions were taken to ensure that the best possible bargain was made. When one is spending 6,000,000 dollars of public money and inviting the Oireachtas to under-write the transaction, I think it is not a desirable procedure to tell us: “We have made a contract which gives us long term credit with General Motors to buy 6,000,000 dollars worth of equipment for this enterprise from them”, without going on to say: “And this agreement was made after tenders had been sought from a variety of firms equipped to provide this kind of equipment and when those tenders had been fully considered it was determined that what General Motors had to offer us was the cheapest and the best.”
I welcome any expansion of Irish-American trade but I am not blind to the fact that the great bulk of our exports go to Great Britain. May I assume that manufacturers of like equipment in Great Britain and elsewhere were afforded an opportunity of tendering for this equipment? I gather from the Minister's nod of assent that that is so, but he might with advantage have said that to us in asking us to consent to a guarantee of this size.
Probably this proposal for the dieselisation of our railway system is the proper policy to pursue, bearing in mind that I can remember the time in this House when from the Fianna Fáil benches it used to be loudly and acrimoniously proclaimed, when we commenced this dieselisation process, that we were selling the country into  the servitude of foreign fuel. In the past, the view of Fianna Fáil used to be that we should not operate any form of transport in this country that could not, in the last analysis, be operated by domestic fuel. We are now passing right away from that concept to the point where the internal transport system of the country will be based entirely and exclusively, both as to road and rail transport, on imported oil. That is a new departure and it is an interesting departure. It is worthy of note.
I believe the dieselisation of our railway system is inevitable and, accordingly, on the assumption that with these peculiar observations, the Minister will give us specific assurances on tenders, where they have been had from other sources, and the tenders it is now proposed to accept and guarantee that this offer is the best, we will not oppose this Bill. But I think, Sir, due to the fact that this is another transport Bill which is providing for Córas Iompair Éireann a further amenity to assist it in its operations, it is not irrelvant to ask at this stage: where are we going?
We began this whole programme of transport legislation on the proposition first, that Córas Iompair Éireann should have a monopoly of transport on the basis that Córas Iompair Éireann was a common carrier in the technical sense of that term: that is to say, it had a statutory obligation to accept any traffic tendered to it and to carry it to its desired destination; secondly, that Córas Iompair Éireann had a statutory obligation not to provide differential rates; that is to say, if they made a specific rate for anybody, that rate was to be accessible to everybody else; and, thirdly, that Córas Iompair Éireann continue to have the responsibility of providing adequate transport in a form acceptable to the people in every part of the country. That was the original basis of all our transport legislation conferring a monopoly on Córas Iompair Éireann, providing annual grants to help them to meet their costs and guaranteeing to meet their deficiencies, whatever they might be.
 Then came the 1958 Act and under that Act we started on an entirely new basis because we abolished the obligation of common carrier. We withdrew from Oireachtas Éireann its discretion to determine what the obligation of Córas Iompair Éireann to provide adequate transport of an acceptable kind in every part of the country should be and we acknowledged and sanctioned the right of Córas Iompair Éireann to provide exceptional rates for individuals on foot of ad hoc bargains that might from time to time be made without any corresponding obligation to make these rates available to competitors.
I think the question now arises, when we are asked to provide for Córas Iompair Éireann any substantial guarantee of the kind submitted to us today: should Córas Iompair Éireann, in addition to all these advantages we have bestowed upon them in the 1958 Act, continue to enjoy the monopoly? They are not now labouring under any of the old obligations a transport authority used to have. Why should we continue to prescribe that there should be no competition in the field of transport?
I want to draw the attention of the House to a very remarkable fact. Under the general scheme of monopoly existing, we have also perennially provided certain private transport contractors with the right to operate limited transport facilities and these right have been associated with the issue of a plate which is associated with a particular vehicle; anyone operating a plated vehicle is entitled to operate transport within a circumscribed area or sometimes within the whole of Ireland. Within recent times, these plates have become the subject of commercial transaction; they have been sold by one licensee who is retiring from the business to another and when the market value of these plates falls to be determined by the ordinary process of commercial competition, you find sums of over £1,000 and even far greater sums being paid for a plate. That suggests that the right to engage in limited transport operations is a very valuable one. I have heard it suggested that sums of between £5,000 and £10,000 have been paid for a plate.  Now, observe what this means: it means that the people of the country are paying for transport rates which make it worth a man's while to pay between £5,000 and £10,000 for the chance of getting into the business. Now that we have relieved Córas Iompair Éireann of all the old burdensome obligations they used to have and have left them to operate in an industry where any entrant is prepared to pay between £5,000 and £10,000 for the chance of participating with one vehicle, is there not a very strong argument for saying that the business should be thrown open to free competition and that anybody who wants to engage in business as a transport contractor should be free to do so? What is the justification for the continuation of a monopoly?
I could understand it if Córas Iompair Éireann had said: “Well, we admit we have asked to be delivered from our obligations as common carriers; we admit we have asked to be freed from the obligation of giving preferential rates to everybody if we give them to anybody; but we have retained the obligation, which we continue to discharge, of operating a number of branch lines throughout the country, branch lines which are uneconomic, and if our monopoly position is to be ended, one of the consequences must be that these branch lines will have to go. So long as you want to keep them, you must leave us the monopoly.”
Now we are told by the Chairman of Córas Iompair Éireann that he is not in a position to maintain the branch lines any longer and that he proposes to do away with all the branch lines in due course. He is quite prepared now, unlike the previous occasion, to discuss the matter with local interests, but he gives a clear indication in advance that, unless much more influential arguments than he can possibly conceive at present, are advanced, the company proposes to close all the branch lines in Ireland. Now if Córas Iompair Éireann is no longer a common carrier, if it no longer is obliged to give everyone the same rate, if it no longer intends to operate  branch lines, what is the justification for its retaining the transport monopoly? I should be glad to hear from the Minister his answer to that proposition on this occasion when we are asked to provide a State guarantee for a six million dollars purchase of new equipment for this enterprise.
How different this proposal would be if the Minister had come in and said that he proposed to throw the transport industry open to free competition in order to put what is the national transport authority in a position to compete with allcomers and in order to do that we want to start a new career as a company operating such a free enterprise and to equip them with the best possible rolling stock which money can buy and that, therefore, we are asking Dáil Éireann to guarantee 6 million dollars which is necessary to get the best rolling stock. Having got that, we could then compete with allcomers and let the best man win.
Does the House not think we ought to be told the reason why the transport authority is not prepared to compete if it is operating in a business in which people are prepared to pay £5,000 or £10,000 for an opportunity to operate one vehicle? I think that is a matter that the Minister ought to deal with and explain because I do not understand it with the information at my disposal. People are too readily prepared to forget that transport costs are as truly costs of the agricultural industry and every other branch of business activity in the country as raw materials are the cost of the manufacturer. We all read in the paper a couple days ago of the indignation and alarm created in the livestock industry by an announcement on the part of cross-Channel companies of their intention to increase their costs by 7½ per cent.
I do not know what the effect on transport charges inside this country would be if transport was made subject to free competition but I do know that all the livestock that travels from this country to Great Britain travels on Córas Iompair Éireann transport at the present time, or at least the greater bulk of it. Córas Iompair Éireann is  in a position to make its own charge on every head of that livestock free of competition from any alternative service. Conscious of that fact and conscious of the fact that the total cost of transporting all the livestock of this country, not to speak of the cost of conveying feeding stuffs for the stock through the country, not to speak of the cost of moving wheat and beet and other products of the agricultural community, forms the income of CIE, I cannot help asking myself how far that burden of cost would be relieved if this industry was open to competition, when one remembers that under present conditions individuals are prepared to pay £5,000 and £10,000 for the right to operate one vehicle in the transport industry.
Mr. Dillon: Let us face this fact— I mentioned a figure of £1,000 for a plate of limited value. You referred to the figure of £5,000 and £10,000 for plates with a right to travel over the whole country. Every vehicle of CIE can operate all over Ireland. There is no restriction on them.
Mr. Dillon: There would be very few entrants into the industry if it was as competitive as the Minister seems to believe. The only information I have is with regard to the plates that can operate all over the country and my information is that up to £10,000 has  been paid for them and that there are very few of them. I was a member of a Government which sustained Córas Iompair Éireann as a transport monopoly. I was Minister for Agriculture in that Government and I was very conscious of the burden on the agricultural industry because at that time Córas Iompair Éireann were in a position to say that unless they had a monopoly large areas would be left without transport which they were providing at a loss.
At that time one was prepared to say that was the price to be paid for having at our disposal a transport authority that did not quote differential rates and that provided rail facilities where otherwise they would not exist. That is no longer true. Now we have not got any of those things but we still appear to have the costs. On the occasion when we are now being asked to guarantee the cost of the most modern rolling stock that money can buy, will the Minister tell us what is the justification for maintaining this transport monopoly any longer?
The Minister will find more and more people are beginning to ask why should there not be free competition in this business and why should anybody who believes he can give as good or a better service not be permitted to compete instead of confining it to a relatively select company, some of whose transport plates are worth £1,000 and a very few of whose plates, corresponding closely to the rates enjoyed by the transport company, can be sold for £10,000 to hardheaded men who consider they are good value at that price.
We do not object to helping the transport authority of this country to buy the best equipment on the assumption that the Minister is in a position to guarantee to us that this is the best equipment but we have a duty, representing not only the transport industry but every other section of the community as well, to raise the question and to expect an explicit answer from the Minister as to why under the new conditions the monopoly that used to be justified by the obligation of the common carrier to provide equal rates for all and to maintain  uneconomic branch lines in existence, should continue to exist when the monopoly is no longer a common carrier but charges differential rates and has announced its intention of closing all the branch lines in the country. That is a reasonable request to make of the Minister for Transport and Power on this occasion and we would expect an answer.
Mr. Desmond: The policy of the Labour Party in connection with transport is well known and there is no need for me to dwell upon that. Under all circumstances we are in favour of a national transport system, and if we had not to consider this Bill against the background of some of the misfortunes that seem to be creeping in through the instrumentality of CIE, with the full co-operation of the Minister, then this Bill would sound very good, its purpose being to purchase 37 new diesel locomotives from General Motors of America.
The Minister asks us to agree with him that everyone in this country be a party to guaranteeing the payment of over six million dollars for these locomotives. These locomotives will bring the total number of CIE diesel units up to 269, including 93 rail cars. As a genuine improvement of our transport system this proposal should be welcome but to me the tragedy behind it is that in the board of CIE we have a body of autocrats and a Minister who apparently assumes he knows all about transport and that nobody else knows anything about it. This proposal is made at a time when the dictatorial policy of the board of CIE is leading to the closing of further branch lines although it was stated in this Chamber by the Minister that the closing of the branch lines in West Cork and other places was to be the final act of the curtailment of rail services in those areas.
Many members of this House as well as many people outside have disagreed with the Minister's policy in connection with the closing down of the West Cork and the Waterford-Tramore railway lines. Nevertheless, the Minister decided that, with the autocratic powers which he insists the  Chairman and the members of the board of CIE must have, the members of this House are to be treated in the same manner as the general public and that CIE may do what they like in connection with transport.
Mr. Desmond: The Minister is sheltering himself as the chairman of CIE sheltered himself in the publication of this recent statement on the closing down of more branch lines. From where did that statement come? What consideration was given to the people in those areas before it was decided that those areas would be denied rail services? This proposal to provide additional locomotives would normally be regarded, as we of the Labour Party would wish it to be, as a help to the people in rural Ireland as well as to such cities as Dublin, Cork, Limerick and Waterford.
Is there not a touch of irony in the provision under Section 3 whereby the Minister can ask CIE to give him security for repayment, security at a time when they are closing down, one by one, every branch line in the country, when they are coming to the stage when we shall have, perhaps, only a few main railway lines in the country? Are we depending on the security of those lines and the profit that is to be made by CIE from those lines for the guarantee that is being sought? The Minister knows that CIE, through its board of management, found it convenient, at a time when they have closed down railway lines in West Cork and other places, at a time when they are persisting in closing down further lines, to tender for the catering at Cork Airport. Is CIE to be the transport service for the people or is it now considered that the best we can expect from CIE. is to have it go into the market as a catering  establishment and seek contracts from our air service?
It is absolutely useless for us to argue such matters here so long as the present Minister holds the position he does in connection with transport and power. I am not taking from him the fact that he is a person of ability. I am convinced he is availing of his position and his intellectual powers not to help the community, not to help CIE on to the right road to provide rural Ireland with a transport system essential for the well-being and economy of the country. I am convinced he is insisting on adopting an attitude which ultimately will bare rural areas of all forms of transport.
We know the attitude of CIE. We were told that, in the closing down of West Cork and other lines, we did not have to worry as we would get an alternative service. Yet, strange, we find, in relation to any request we ever made to CIE for an improvement in the bus services and the freight services in different areas, that CIE are very quick to come along with a convenient excuse. I would not wish at this stage to go into individual items except one line and Cork Deputies, at least, will be able to bear me out in what I say.
Some few years ago we asked CIE to provide us with a bus service for the people in an area beyond Kinsale, in Sandycove area. We were told they were prepared to give a service once a week there provided the county council would bring the road up to proper condition. That was done. Of course, CIE had no intention whatsoever of co-operating in giving a service in that area, any more than they have in relation to the many areas in the Cork district about which I have from time to time made inquiries.
We are now guaranteeing CIE this money which they will hand over to an American firm—for what? It is true it is supposed to be for up-to-date locomotives which, normally, we would desire and which we in the Labour Party believe are essential to build up a proper transport service. On the other hand, while that is being done— providing this money—we are confronted  with the position of knowing that most, if not all, of our branch lines will disappear. Many a Deputy who was not affected last year when we were fighting in connection with West Cork—even a member of the Government Party—now knows that in his own locality the branch line will be a thing of the past. That policy in my opinion will be the ruination of the CIE transport service. That policy will be the ruination of that service. The Chairman and the members of the board know that they have the full support of the present Minister for Transport and Power in adopting a completely dictatorial attitude in their dealings with the public. We have to provide this money: it is essential. However, the Minister must understand that the day will come yet when some other member will take over office in the Department of Transport and Power. There is many a good man in Fianna Fáil who could handle it and who may not be prepared to adopt the attitude of the present Minister. So long as this Minister is there he will, in relation to transport and power, damn Fianna Fáil and damn every Party in this Chamber and damn the people in rural Ireland.
Mr. A. Barry: I hope I shall not damn anyone when I am speaking. This door labelled CIE, is closed all the year round. We cannot open it except on an occasion like this when those behind it open it and ask for money. Then we can get a foot inside the door and talk about what goes on inside.
I think it is quite right that the affairs of CIE should not be discussed in this House. I think CIE should stand on its own legs and that the intentions of the House in the past were the proper intentions. Sometimes when there are proposals that are wider than commercial proposals, or what I would call balance sheet proposals, I think we could take a quiet look at them and wonder if the train we are on is going in the right direction. Maybe it is one of those mystery tours and that we are not quite sure where we shall arrive. Therefore, I should like to make some brief and general observations on policy. Of course, it refers to the  recent speech of the Chairman of CIE.
Dr. Andrews is not an autocrat, I am sure, by instinct or make-up but this House has made him one. They have given him power and imposed on him a very difficult task. Of all the 144 Deputies in this House who have spoken on this matter in the past—men who have come and gone from here— very few of them would have exchanged with Dr. Andrews the job we gave him to make a railway in a rather depopulated country in the year of our Lord 1962 run as a solvent concern.
If I were Dr. Andrews and the House gave me that job I should do exactly as he has done. I should close down the branch lines. I should lop off the losers and keep the winners and the ones that remain in balance. In that way, I should probably get somewhere towards doing what this House asked me to do when the Transport Bill was before the House, namely, to make the whole balance sheet come into balance.
However, I am not Dr. Andrews and no one of us here is. I think we have to look at a slightly more diffuse and general picture. We have to regard what is happening and what Dr. Andrews has promised he will try to bring about. We have to regard, from the community point of view, whether the kind of balance sheet Dr. Andrews must obey is the sensible balance sheet for the Irish community.
The general picture is this. Take the large section of railway line which was taken up in West Cork. It was losing so much money every year that it was a relief of some kind to the CIE balance sheet to cease operating there. It was also a relief of a curious kind to that balance sheet in another way, to which I would ask the Minister to refer when replying. I have in mind how the assets were used and used even from an accountancy point of view. But, from the community point of view, roads had to be provided, built, widened, strengthened. Bridges had to be constructed. Changes had to be or will have to be made in the small towns that now take the transport that used to travel on rails.
Take even the city of Cork. The imposition of this freight and big vehicles  in the city streets has created its own problems. There is the question of the provision of vehicles alone. These things must be added together. I do not think anybody tried to do so, but we should. If this House is sensible, we should start looking at the wider picture. We should wonder if, in the long run, a citizen is any better off because a red figure in the balance sheet has become a red figure on a wider balance sheet and whether he, as a ratepayer and taxpayer, has not to pay the same or maybe a bigger amount. It is only by looking at the wider basis that it makes sense.
Looking at it from Dr. Andrew's point of view, I say quite honestly that if I were he, I should do what he is doing now. Whether it is wise from the point of view of the community to do it, whether it is wise that all this expenditure should be incurred, that all this traffic should be thrown on to road networks that are not always competent to carry it, whether it is wise that all these valuable assets should be dissipated, even if they make an impact of a curious kind on current balance sheets, whether the direct disemployment that results is worth it all, whether the ultimate bill will be greater or lesser, and whether the ultimate service will be better or worse, are all matters that must be considered.
With regard to the recent proposals, I will ask only one question of the Minister. For many Sundays of the summer season, as many as 4,000 people are carried to the town of Youghal from the city of Cork. How is it proposed to carry them in the future or how will the economy of Youghal survive, if they are not carried there? There is a wider balance sheet than just the CIE balance sheet. We would be wise to look at it.
Mr. A. Barry: What will replace it? How will the assets be used? By way of postscript, may I point out that a body of men in this country enjoy from 10/- to 15/- per week, having given service up to 25, 30 and 40 years in the company. Will they get any share in the assets?
Dr. Browne: This is a most important Bill in so far as it is an important amendment of the 1958 Transport Act and it is introduced at an important time in the light of transport services generally in the country. Its main shortcoming is, of course, that it is such a limited amendment. It is one of the odd anomalies of political life here that the most conservative amongst us in public life should be put in charge of a semi-State monopoly like CIE. It is not surprising that we should get from someone so completely hostile to the type of operation he is put in to supervise and control such a complete misunderstanding of the proper functions of a public company like CIE. According to the statement made by the Minister for Transport and Power, he has virtually no power at all. He seems to want to run CIE as if it were a private joint stock company whose affairs and operations are so secret and confidential that they should not be made known to the general public except in the broadest general terms.
I, as everybody knows, am one who advocates public ownership in virtually every sector of our economy. Consequently, I deeply regret the fact that we have an organisation, such as transport, controlled by a semi-State company, developing over the years such an undesirable reputation for callous indifference to the needs of the people. I deeply regret that it should give a bad name to the whole idea of public ownership. It does not surprise me that the Minister is not concerned in this aspect of policy, but it is regrettable because people tend to judge the whole idea of public ownership by the results they see in CIE.
 I do not think we should delay long with the tentative suggestion put forward by Deputy Dillon with regard to private enterprise and the desirability of giving more control of transport to private enterprise. Whatever defects there may be in CIE, they are clearly remedial. There is, too, the advantage that even with a consevative Minister like the present Minister for Transport and Power, we are at least allowed to discuss the relevant matters here. That is an advantage we have as compared with the predecessors of CIE—the GNR and the GSR—in whose operations or affairs we had no say. Because of that, we could not at any time apply any kind of corrective.
The situation is not quite so bad here. It is four years since the 1958 Act was passed and in those four years, we have had an opportunity of watching its operation. The minor change proposed here will not achieve the objective the Minister put forward. I am prepared to wager with the Minister that the company will not break even by 1964 and the country still have a transport service in operation. It is a fact that in many countries transport services are run at a loss. That is something that it is difficult for some people to accept, but it is quite reasonable that a transport service in certain circumstances should be run at a loss in much the same way, as, say, a hospital, a fire brigade, or any other essential public service is run at a loss. That is essential in order to establish and retain the particular kind of social fabric we have in our society.
Dr. Browne: No. I am talking about the general principle. I am discussing the general principle that one may lose money in operating an equitable transport service. It is possible, of course, for someone to come along and say that he will give £100,000 for the option on the Dublin transport services; he would probably make money out of them. I am concerned with the kind of service, if there is such a service, from Galway to Lettermullen.
Dr. Browne: West Cork was closed down because it did not make a profit. Let us take West Cork. There is a case to be made on both sides. It may be said that it does not matter if West Cork loses its rail service or if it does not get an efficient service. If, as a result of that, people decide not to live in West Cork, one gets a gradual drift from rural Ireland, with people tending to move in to the more populated areas. In that way, a very undesirable trend is manifested in the social pattern of our society.
Mr. Childers: I should like, Sir, to have a direction on this point. I am perfectly willing to argue this subject for the next three days, but the main Estimate for the Department will be coming on in the next Session, I understand, if the House agrees to vote an Appropriation Bill and so on—the Chair knows the arrangements to which I am referring — and these matters could be discussed then. I should like your direction as to whether on this Bill, the 1958 Act and proposals for amending and changing it are valid. If you think it is all right, I am perfectly delighted to discuss the arguments advanced.
Dr. Browne: The point is that the Minister is amending this very important 1958 Act and is giving us to believe that this is important, first of all, in consideration that CIE will pay its way by 1964, and in postulating that he assumes that it is essential and desirable that it should pay its way by 1964. What I want to suggest to the Minister is that a very much bigger amendment is needed. He has seen the operation of the 1958 Act and he  has seen what has happened because of the inclusion in that Act of subsection (2) of Section 7, that this company must pay its way by 1964. I am reminding him of the repercussions of that and I am suggesting to him that in asking for this money and using as one of his arguments that it will help us to break even by 1964, he is concerning himself with something which is not of major importance.
In the past four years, we have seen the operation of this provision in the Act and we have seen a development whereby fares have risen astronomically and there has been widespread redundancy. Admittedly, it was compensated redundancy but there was widespread redundancy. There has been the closing down of many branch railway lines and it is proposed to close down other branch railway lines. We have seen many services restricted and the repercussions have been so widespread and so serious that the Minister should reconsider the whole question of extending the provisions of this Act.
If he wants these engines, if he thinks they are the right thing mechanically, that is quite another question. Whether he should commit himself to this insistence that CIE should pay its way by 1964 is the point on which I would like to take issue. We can honestly say that there was never greater dissatisfaction with the activities of the company. The relations between the workers and the management are, as far as we can see, constantly on the boil and on the edge of explosion. We have had the experience of having a national transport strike nearly precipitated by this one-man bus question —the argument again in favour of the idea that the company must pay its way by 1964. The whole picture over the years since 1958 has been that the company is not moving in that direction at all. It is misleading to the Dáil to come here and say that this latest proposal is the key to the problem and that if we have these 37 diesel electric locomotives, it will be possible to achieve this objective.
In regard to the proposals made here, the Minister has treated the House on a number of occasions with  complete contempt on the question of providing information. From time to time, I have asked him questions about these very locomotives and he refused to give me any information, adopting the most astonishing attitude that the management of CIE had made a particular decision and this decision could not be questioned or should not be questioned. In fact, they sent out a purchasing commission to General Motors in America; they bought a number of locomotives at considerable cost and when they got these to Ireland, it was found they were not suitable for the railways——
Dr. Browne: This is a debate about the purchase of these locomotives which I am talking about. I am questioning the advisability of paying six million dollars for these locomotives because apparently when we got them here, the purchasing commission was found to have made a very serious blunder. They had spent a lot of money buying locomotives which could only be driven safely in one direction. In fact, the insistence on continuing to drive the locomotives other than in one direction lead on one occasion to the possibility of an accident involving two men on a bogey who were not seen until the last moment and who nearly lost their lives. Later, indeed, a man lost a leg and an arm. It is possible for everybody to make a mistake. I do not think people at that level should make a mistake—
Dr. Browne: Having asked questions in the House about these locomotives, the Minister adopted the attitude that we should not question the decisions of CIE and that these people were above criticism. That seems to be the complete antithesis of the correct approach to the operation of a public company. We are sent here by the public who have put a lot of money into these various concerns and we have a right to come in and say to the Minister: “Are you spending it properly? Are you getting value for our money? It is not your money but our money and if you are not getting value for our money, something should be done about it.” The attitude of the Minister is that having made this colossal blunder, having come back here with these engines which can only be safely driven in one direction, the Minister closes down and acts on the instructions of whoever it is in CIE who wants to cover up the blunder and refuses to give us any information.
The Minister then says he proposes to buy more of these locomotives. It is clear from the specifications of these new locomotives that the charges I made were valid and sound charges which the Minister should have investigated, charges which should not have had to be raised by a private Deputy. The Minister should have had whoever was responsible on the carpet. He should have asked who are these people? Are they still in CIE? Were they disciplined for making this great blunder in the expenditure of public money? He should not have covered up for them——
Dr. Browne: The Minister has only himself to blame if there is any doubt  about the usability of these locomotives. When he came in and told us in regard to these 37 new locomotives purchased from the same company that it is intended that they shall be what he called bigger or heavier, he did not disclose at that time that they were bigger and heavier, simply by virtue of the fact that they had a second observation car attached. The impression he created here at Question Time was that the specifications had been altered in some other very important way. In fact, the specifications were hardly altered at all, except for the addition of this second observation cabin, and in that way increasing the safety margin in the operation of these locomotives. Why could not the Minister come in and say that? Why could he not admit: “Yes, we made an error in the first instance but we are putting it right”? Instead, he gave the impression here that they were buying single cab and double cab locomotives just because they felt like it; that it was just a whim or a fancy; that they liked having the single and double ones. He must see that the double cabins are safer on the railways for one reason and another and he must admit that in not disclosing that these people had made a blunder in the first instance he was betraying his responsibility to the public. In that way it seems to me that he is completely undermining the confidence of the public in the company.
One of the difficulties that, I suppose, we have all found here when asking the Minister for Transport and Power for information is that he will not give any, that he will say: “It is not my job or not my responsibility” or “I cannot give the information”. One or other formula is put forward by the Civil Service for him to read out and he reads it out. If that is so, it must be most unsatisfactory for the Minister to be in a Department in which he has little or no influence. It seems to me a bit high-handed for the Minister to come into the House and ask for six million dollars for the purchase of one kind of locomotive and not to give us information that we ask for in regard to it.
There are various people who provide  these locomotives. The Germans have one; the British have one; the French have one and the Americans, of course. I put down a number of questions for the Minister and they were ruled out of order by the Ceann Comhairle. So, then, I went to the Chairman of CIE and asked him questions similar to the questions I put down here. These were questions which would add to our information here and help us to make up our minds on the case put forward by the Minister that these were a desirable buy. I asked if they would help in the getting of a financially viable transport service by 1964, and I asked Dr. Andrews to answer certain questions concerning the managerial to executive type of staff in CIE when he took over in 1959 and at present: the amount of skilled, semi-skilled and unskilled labour in 1959 and at present; the companies asked to tender for supply of the diesel-electric locomotives; when tenders were put forward, how many replies were received and when were General Motors informed that their tender was accepted; the total number of diesel-electric locomotives at present in use; the expectation of life of each type of these locomotives in the use of CIE when purchased; their actual life of use under CIE conditions; the total mileage handled by CIE locomotives of each type in each year since 1955 to the most recent date; the amount allowed for depreciation in respect of diesel-electric locomotives in each year since purchase; the percentage rate of steam to diesel-electric locomotion in each year from 1955 to the most recent date and then the intended proportion of diesel-electric locomotives when the whole process of dieselisation of steam locomotion is completed and then the significant changes, if any, in the specifications put forward to General Motors when asking for the supply of the new diesel-electric locomotives.
I think all of those are reasonably pointed questions or useful questions, which would be of help to this House if they were answered. I could not get any answers from the Minister on these points and, strange to relate, the head of CIE, Dr. Andrews, wrote back and said he would not answer me either.  So, we are now in the situation that we are asked for six million dollars worth of money and the public are not going to be given this basic information upon which they could make up their minds whether their six million dollars will be properly spent or not. Remember, the public have and must have in the back of their minds the fact that the last purchasing commission came back with a number of engines which when put into use were found to be seriously defective. Now we are not told in the Minister's speech nor are we told in reply to Parliamentary Questions nor will we be told in reply to letters sent to the head of CIE. We are not going to be given the simplest fundamental information which anybody would require before advancing money on this scale.
It is common knowledge that the Minister tried to raise this money in other ways. It is quite clear that when he tried to get money from the public the money was not forthcoming, that most of it had to be taken up by the insurance companies, that the Government guaranteed the rest and a very little amount came from CIE. The financial rating of CIE is extremely low. The Minister does not seem to be aware of that fact. He comes in here and asks for six million dollars on the trite invocation that it will be all right by 1964 if we have 37 more of these diesel-electric locomotives, so hand out the six million dollars. Either the Minister does not have any regard for the standards of intelligence or understanding of this House or else he could not care less what they think; he is going to use a steamrolled majority to get his six million dollars and he is not concerned with what reaction the public may have in regard to it.
Mr. Childers: On a point of order, I should like to say that there is nothing in the Second Reading speech which suggests that if we pass this Bill, there will be a guarantee that CIE will be a paying organisation by 1964. It requires a great deal more than the purchase of diesel engines to ensure that. Deputies may not have had an opportunity of hearing my speech. I  should not like to have the debate continue on the basis that there is any guarantee of the profitability of CIE and its paying its way on just these purchases. Of course, a lot more is required.
Dr. Browne: This is being used as a very important attraction to the public to subscribe six million dollars. But the public should be given information about the operation of these diesel-electric locomotives. It should be explained to them why it is believed this diesel-electric locomotive is better than, say, the Vickers Armstrong or the French locomotives, all of which are readily available. Why can we not be given some information about the question of tendering? Could we not be told what firms asked to be allowed to tender? Were these firms given the specification or was the specification given solely to General Motors, and if so, why? Were the tenders offered only to one company and if so, why?
The Minister must understand this is a very serious thing to do. It is permissible but there should be an explanation for it. Were these other companies told that, if they gave us the benefits of this curious and rather undignified proposal from a State Department that we buy engines on the never-never system, they would be considered? Were these other companies told that if they gave us these conditions of purchase, we would consider buying 37 diesel-electric locomotives from them or was this offered solely to General Motors in the first instance?
At a time when fares have been increasing so considerably, when there has been widespread redundancy, when there is great management-worker conflict,  when there are very defective services from the passengers' viewpoint and when they are becoming worse, it is a bit hard for the public to be suddenly presented with a bill for six million dollars, on the assurance that this is going to help us realise our target of breaking even in 1964. It is quite obvious that all our transport services are inadequate, that there is need for democratic changes following the serious alteration in our transport services. There is the fact that people in rural areas, in the backward areas one might say, feel themselves being more and more isolated. There is no attempt to help them to continue to stay in rural Ireland. That is a serious thing for a country which is primarily agricultural.
Particularly in the West of Ireland, the fares are outrageous for people with small incomes. Take the fare from Galway to Spiddal as an example. It is beyond the pockets of most of the people who live there. It all adds up to a persuasion to the people: “You can get out; you must get out”. That follows the basic example of the suggestion that the transport services must at all costs be made to pay. Rail services are being curtailed and it has been said that satisfactory bus services are being provided as an alternative. That will have very serious repercussions on road transport because of the fact that there is not, at the same time as the curtailment of rail transport, an integrated road building policy.
If one is to throw more and more public transport on to the roads, it is imperative that a very widespread road building programme be commenced. We all know what a very serious financial commitment that is, since it is nowadays so expensive to build roads. I understand a mile of proper road costs in the region of £1,000,000. It is conceivable that this whole approach to public transport, which so far has been so bad, will add further to road chaos generally and that it will force even greater gatherings of people in built up areas since it will make it so much more difficult for people to live outside cities. We may try to restrict that growth in the heart of our cities  by advising the people to live in the suburbs, but once we get them there, we increase their fares and they find it is more expensive to live outside than inside our cities which will consequently get bigger and bigger.
Dr. Browne: It is important to remind the Minister of the haphazard nature of the transport policy being pursued at the moment and that he has an opportunity in this Bill to make an important amendment. I am not suggesting we should run our transport services at a loss for the fun of the thing. I am saying they should be run primarily as a social amenity, an essential public amenity in order to facilitate people in rural Ireland, to make it possible for them to stay in rural Ireland instead of driving them out of it as we are doing at the moment. That could be done by amending the Bill at subsection (2) of Section 7. I should like to know from the Minister the type of locomotive he is proposing to buy, the way in which it differs from the existing diesel-electric locomotive, how many companies were asked to tender——
Dr. Browne: I am just summing up. How many companies were asked to tender and were the conditions included in this Bill put to any other company; did they refuse them; when was the contract placed; and was it necessary for CIE to adopt what seems to me to be this rather curious policy of buying the locomotives on the deferred payment system? Would it not have been possible to buy these things outright?
Mr. Corry: When voting money to CIE at present, one must go into things rather more seriously than into similar financial proposals in other respects. There was vast publicity some days ago of the fact that practically the whole of  County Cork is now being wiped out as far as rail transport is concerned. We are to lose the lines from Mallow to Kanturk and to Newmarket, the lines from Mallow to Fermoy——
Mr. Corry: I am anxious to know whether these diesel engines now being bought can be converted for use on the roads, in view of the fact that there will soon be no railway lines left for them to travel on.
Mr. Corry: At the rate you are going, they will be there only a few years more. We have at present the most expensive transport system in the world and freight costs have practically killed production. I want to know from the Minister whether these diesels are convertible for road transport now that the railway lines are being wiped out. That is the only use I can see for this equipment for which we are asked to pay six million dollars. If, apart from the Dublin to Cork line, all the other lines are to be wiped out, I do not believe in paying 6,000,000 dollars for special engines for that purpose.
Mr. Corry: What is the weight of these diesels? If they are to be run on the roads, I, as a representative of the ratepayers of County Cork, would like to know what the effect on the roads will be. I would suggest to the Minister that, instead of this procedure, he would consider the complete abolition of the monopoly there at present, if we are to be able to compete with other countries. When the Minister opens the paper and reads the cost of transporting a ton of “spuds” from Kerry to Dublin and from Dublin to London, it should give him food for serious thought.
Mr. T. Lynch: I have come in late on this, just like the CIE trains. I would like to know the performance of these diesel engines with regard to the simple matter of hauling trains on time. I have seldom travelled from Kingsbridge to Waterford without finding the train late. I have gone to meet people coming up at Kingsbridge and I have seldom found the train not late. I had to listen to Deputy Sir Anthony Esmonde tell me last week that he was late for Dáil Éireann because the train had broken down. Since we went over to diesel engines I am constantly hearing of trains breaking down. I seldom heard of trains breaking down when we were hauling them by steam locomotives built in Inchicore by Irish craftsmen. The type of engines I am speaking about are the great engines built for the American mail. I am not talking about “Are you right there, Michael” mentioned by some Fianna Fáil Deputy over there. I am very serious about this because it is a very serious business and is costing us six million dollars. I have already expressed my views about the policy of Dr. Andrews and CIE. This policy of dieselisation is once more a question of rushing into it. It has been said that the diesels have proved themselves more economical on long runs. This is a small country. Maybe they got their figures from the United States where there are thousands of miles from coast to coast. The longest run here is from Cork to Dublin.
Mr. T. Lynch: You may bet they are because they are shipping the people out. I do not know how much one of these diesel engines costs. Whatever they cost, the whole lot will be starting more than six million dollars “in the  red”. I should like the Minister to tell us what is the life of a diesel engine. People may even mock at these great locomotives built at Inchicore, but they will not mock when the time for adding up comes. These engines ran for years. They did not require one-fiftieth of the maintenance the diesels require. They hauled their trains on time. The trains running between Dublin and Waterford and Dublin and Cork were always on time. They were on time for years. The people would be made if the train was only a minute or two late. Now the people are used to CIE delivering them at their destinations a half-hour or an hour late. You go to the station and you are told that the train is running 25 or 30 minutes late. That happens, and not necessarily in holiday time. When the train comes in you discover, even in holiday time, that it is only half-full of people. Yet it is an hour or a half an hour late despite these highly priced locomotives.
My information is that these locomotives cost an enormous amount to maintain. They need a highly technical staff to act as nursemaids to them. The proof of the pudding is in the eating, they say, and we can see the constant number of breakdowns. We just rushed off into this. Somebody came across and sold us on the idea. Everybody else was getting diesels and we would have to get them, too. Perhaps, if they were tried out on the main lines and the fuel consumption per mile measured, it might work out.
What I think appealed to the so-called experts in CIE was the fact that there was a fireman on the old-fashioned locomotive and he could be got rid of or declared redundant, and passed off with the small pension which CIE were able to pass off on some of their fine servants. His wages were put down as a saving, and no one said that these engines might cost £80,000 or £90,000. No one said they are as reliable as the old engines, and no one mentioned that they are foreign articles, made in foreign workshops. It was the policy for years of various Governments that if a good enough article could be made in  Ireland, by Irishmen, it would get a preference. Great craftsmen and great fitters in Inchicore were dispensed with and pushed out when it shut down.
Mr. T. Lynch: I remember telling the House some time ago about an election, about the language and the flag, and about financial scandals and gangsters behind it. The Leas-Cheann Comhairle thought I was talking about Ireland but I was not. I was talking about Chicago and Big Bill Thompson.
Mr. T. Lynch: I do not want the steam engine back and I will not have the Minister putting words in my mouth. The lines must be left there for a start. The Minister cannot prove to me that these engines are paying or that they are improving the system. We have to vote this money, and when it is voted, we cannot ask the Minister a question about it afterwards. If we put down Parliamentary Questions asking him to give the intake figures of any branch of CIE, he will say that it is not his function. Because he has to come here and get the money, I consider that we have the right to  replies to such Parliamentary Questions. We are sent here by the people of Ireland. If the Minister gets money from the House for the running of any of our public utilities such as the railways, the ESB or anything else, we have the right to ask questions about them.
I have been waiting for this opportunity because I have asked the Minister reasonable questions, not about the actual administration of CIE, not about the villainous policy of CIE, but about the number of passengers carried on such a line, or the intake of such a line on which there is a diesel engine. I have been told nothing. The Minister says it is not his function, brushes me off and tells me to write to CIE.
Mr. T. Lynch: I think Deputy Burke had better stick to the bona fide publicans in North Dublin and leave the engines to me. I asked the Minister a question about a railway that was once in existence in my constituency but is no longer there. The Minister brushed me aside and would not tell me about the service he is running there now. We are sent here from the various constituencies and we have the right to question the Minister. I have read this pronunciamento that the diesel engines are the best on the long runs. The longest run seems to be Dublin to Cork. I have seen no convincing figures in regard to weight of fuel per mile and so on. I have never got the costings.
When you have a turbine steam engine, let it be oil or coal driven, can it be shown that that engine is less efficient than a diesel engine, or that the diesed engine is the more efficient? Is it a fact that the diesel engine has a reputation for running to time? Did the Minister's advisers —if he has anything to do with it—or did Dr. Andrews' advisers tell Dr. Andrews that the steam engines were costing too much to maintain? Did the steam engine cost too much to manufacture in the first place? Could the Minister tell us how much wage  content there is in the building of a steam engine?
Will the Minister tell us the average life of a diesel engine? Will he tell us what is the average cost of maintenance of a diesel engine per year over five years? Will he tell us the average cost of maintenance of a compound steam locomotive per year over five years? Will he assure the House that as the responsible Minister for fuel and power, he will reply to Parliamentary Questions about the railways? Will he tell us that if he is asked the costings of a certain CIE operation, if it is a reasonable question, he will get that information from CIE for the House. I am not satisfied when I ask the Minister certain questions to be brushed off and told to go to CIE or have them write to me.
I am drawing the attention of the House to some of the ramifications of CIE. These people gave favourable credit terms. With the exception of dealings with the State in the matter of houses — people buying houses in Ireland will get favourable terms from the Government and there is no catch in it—when a firm, any big firm, without giving a competitive tender offers favourable credit terms to CIE and when CIE buy these diesels, then I think there is a bit of a smell and a bit of high pressure salesmanship there. Maybe what CIE are actually doing is falling for the favourable credit terms and not maybe buying the best engine.
The Minister said—I have it here at last — that railways provide an economic satisfactory service for long-haul fast passenger traffic when the trains do not have too frequent stops and for certain types of long-haul goods traffic. All right. I agree with the Minister on that but on how many lines have we got long hauls? We cannot fool ourselves. We cannot compare ourselves with the Union Pacific Railway which has runs of 500 and 600 miles between stops. We should take a pull at ourselves before any of the six million dollars goes down the spout for this. These 37 new engines have been delivered and it is the intention of CIE to dispense with all steam traction. The Minister should have a care.
I have even something for Deputy  Burke, too, who seems to be always on Ministers' right or left hands when they are in difficulties. I have the word of working railwaymen who have had to work the trains that the steam engine is the best engine for short runs and for slow runs where they have to stop at every station, shunt and make up their train, especially a goods train. Why scrap perfectly good engines to take on expensive diesels and maintain them? The only thing the Minister can prove to me here is that they give so many miles to the gallon and dispense with the wages of a fireman. I was at a dinner a few years ago and I was in horror listening to a pompous gentleman telling us about the wonders of these engines, especially when he came to gloat over the fact that a fireman would be no longer necessary. I do not know for how much we are stuck. These engines may be bought on these favourable credit terms and we have to put up the money but I say to the Minister as the Bill is going through the House and CIE are getting their six million dollars to buy diesels, that when Deputies come in here to ask about running the diesel engines, running the trains the diesel engines draw and the profit or loss the trains make, then I hope the Minister will be prepared to answer us.
Mr. O'Sullivan: I regret to hear the Minister confirm what the chairman of CIE has indicated, especially when he states in his introductory speech that the system may be operated on a somewhat smaller scale than at present because it was intimated by the Minister and by those responsible in CIE that the effect of closing the West Cork, the West Clare and the Waterford lines would be sufficient to save the whole system from the financial embarrassment that then presented itself. It is at least welcome that in the present circumstances the Chairman of CIE has condescended to invite consultations with the interested parties in those areas now scheduled for closure. That is something which was denied to the people in the constituency I represent at the time when the West Cork railways were removed.
I hope that those interested who will  be given this opportunity which was denied to very strong interests who sought an opportunity of making representations at that time will avail of it effectively. If, however, they get assurances from the Chairman of CIE that they will be provided with alternative services at rates comparable with those they enjoyed from the railways, I would ask them to insist on a firm undertaking because that was indicated before in the region where railways have been removed and freight charges have been increased alarmingly. Road freight charges compared with the terms available for rail deliveries have increased to the point that firms which gave their entire business to rail freight have now purchased fleets of their own to provide their own transport because, in their opinion, it would not be economical to pay the huge increases in road freight charges for which they have been billed. I can provide documentary evidence if anybody is in doubt about these drastic increases. These increases, may I say, have had again to be transferred to the shoulders of the ordinary consumer. The firms involved were not in a position to carry the additional impost of the increased charges and it was the ordinary man and woman purchasing goods over the counter in retail shops in the area who were obliged to pay for the increased charges.
Mr. O'Sullivan: The Bill was designed to provide additional moneys to purchase locomotives to operate, the Minister says, in a system on a somewhat smaller scale than at present and I want to avail of the opportunity to appeal to the Minister to permit these locomotives to operate on the part of the line which has not yet been ripped up in my area. So far, the lines have been removed west of Bandon, but they are still intact between Cork and Bandon. There are ideal opportunities for storage and for the distribution of goods from Bandon terminus. I appeal to the Minister to retain that portion, at least, of what  we regard as the main line. The Minister said that, in his opinion, rail activities in CIE should be confined to main lines. If he accepts my plea, that would in some way abate the displeasure and dissatisfaction in regard to passenger movement and the transport of goods in areas affected by rail closure.
The company for which this money is being voted are abandoning practically every obligation on them to operate services, except those that are obviously financially attractive. I believe the time has come to liberalise transport and allow some competition. The first essential is to remove the straitjacket which confines licensed hauliers to the precise areas defined 20 odd years ago. CIE cannot cater for many new transport demands and that leads to a very heavy impact on the cost of the agricultural industry. There is, for example, a charge of 30/-per hour for waiting, when a wheel does not turn, in relation to the transport of livestock at cattle marts. Remember, dealings are protracted over many hours and that has a very serious effect on those who avail of Córas Iompair Éireann services.
Mr. O'Sullivan: I regret if I have deviated from the actual matter to be discussed. I was not present when Deputies were reminded that certain details could not be discussed but, unless I avail of this opportunity to make this last appeal to the Minister to permit the engines he proposes to operate to operate on that section of the line still intact between Cork and Bandon, then I am afraid that, because of the rapidity with which the lines are being ripped up, by the time another opportunity presents itself, we will have no mile of line left in the whole of that area. It is in those circumstances I have availed of this opportunity to make that appeal to the Minister.
Mr. Childers: With some exceptions, Deputies have, I think, received this Bill fairly well. A number of questions were asked about the value of diesel traction. A good many statements in general terms were made about this by my predecessor. After allowing for all expenses it is estimated that a modern diesel engine yields a return of five per cent. on the capital invested. All transport administrations in Europe have, generally speaking, come to the conclusions that diesel traction and electric traction are far more economical than steam traction. The experience of CIE has been that it costs roughly three times as much to run a steam engine as it costs to run a diesel engine.
Deputy Dillon said that he recognised the necessity for the change over to diesel traction when he, with his colleagues in Government, was responsible for transport policy. I can assure Deputy Lynch that he need have no fears in regard to this matter. Whether it is short haul or long haul, the steam engine has had its day. Moreover, the existing stock of steam engines have reached the natural end of their careers. Most of them are not worth while repairing in the kind of fundamental way which would be necessary if they were to continue to be used.
Deputy Lynch referred to some of the unsatisfactory experiences he has had in regard to train punctuality. It is true that CIE have had some unsatisfactory experience with some of their diesel engines from the point of view of breakdowns. I am told that they have been making a tremendous effort to make quite sure that all their diesel engines will operate satisfactorily. The General Motors diesels that were purchased, and which are the subject of this Bill, are, I am told, operating very satisfactorily and fulfilling their specification. That is one of the reasons that lead CIE to purchase a second group of diesel engines of the same type.
I should say that CIE gave an opportunity to eight different firms to tender for this last contract and their selection was based on the type of locomotive which, for its price, would be the most satisfactory for this  country. I do not think I need say anything more than what I have already said in reply to questions about the cab forward and cab rear diesel engines. The engines that are now operating, which for purposes other than shunting have to be reversed, are working entirely satisfactorily. With their turn around at the end of their journey, they operate economically. I do not think there is anything more to be said on that subject.
I was asked what the life of these diesel engines is reckoned to be. It is very hard to get a precise figure because this particular type of engine has not been very long in existence. Certain types have been operating for longer periods, but the smaller diesel engine used for rail purposes has not been operating very long. However, CIE reckons one can count on 20 years for depreciation of the engines and 40 years for depreciation of the chassis.
The only general matter of an important character outside the scope of the debate was that raised with, I think, complete validity by Deputy Dillon. He said we were now going to advance the large sum of six million dollars for these locomotives and that I should say a few words about the extent to which CIE has a monopoly of transport and the bearing of that on its future operations in relation to State policy towards transport. I want to make it absolutely clear that CIE face enormous and continuous competition from nearly 81,000 vehicles of all descriptions. Its rail services are reckoned to carry only about three per cent. of the country's total traffic. Indeed, that figure was estimated before these recent lines were closed. They have, too, to compete with traffic which avoids double handling. When one examines the different types of traffic it will be seen immediately that double handling for many types of traffic is absolutely out, no matter how efficient the handling may be. CIE will have to compete for that kind of traffic which can be moved from the premises of the company or  the individual by a vehicle on to the rail, and moved again a second time when it reaches the end of its journey. The fact is that CIE have certain monopolistic privileges has to be measured against that first and irrevocable form of competition that CIE face both in relation to their rail passenger services and the carriage of goods.
Although it may be true, as Deputy Dillon suggested, that licensed carriers can sell their licences for a good price on occasion, a great many of the licensed carriers do not observe in the same strict way the conditions of employment that are provided by CIE. Their overheads are inevitably less. Many of them operate family concerns and, above all, they are not obliged to run regular services from one place to another. As long as there is any purpose in having a public transport company, one of its obvious obligations is that it should, in addition to running special services whenever these are convenient or proper, run regular services, either by road or by rail. That constitutes a perpetual overhead expense so that there is no comparison between outside concerns and CIE which runs road freight services some of which may be profitable but the profit from which has to be used to cover in many cases either actual losses or profit that would not really pay the full cost of the transaction in the case of the regular services around the country. This has been discussed a great many times in the Dáil.
Mr. Childers: What I meant was there might appear to be a book profit but if you apply the overhead costs of the whole system in a fair proportion to a particular service there would be no profit. I do not think I need say anything more about that. Competition with CIE is growing apace. If the numbers of private cars increase at the rate they are at present increasing they will very nearly be doubled in ten years and in that time there will be one car for every ten people in the country. CIE has to face all  that competition and I do not think it can be said it is in a monopolistic position in the sense that Deputy Dillon suggested. It has certain privileges and certain rights but it has to face the most ferocious competition from all sides.
I do not think there is any point in my going over the ground that was covered at very considerable length on the subject of the closing of branch lines in the course of the special debate that took place here on the report of the last accounts of CIE Few Deputies have raised the matter in any controversial way. Most people know the facts already. The only point I should like to make to the House is that since I last spoke in very great detail on the subject, I have not simply waited for the next group of railway lines to be examined. I have studied the matter still further and I have had the opportunity at a recent international conference of speaking at some considerable length with the directors-general of no less than six European railways and have compared my experience with theirs. I have also read reports of railway administrations throughout Europe and I find it is generally accepted in the modern world that railways will be confined to certain purposes and to certain types of traffic.
The thing that interested me was that at this conference where practically every person had a personal, selfish vested interest in preserving every single mile of railway on his particular line, they all felt and expressed the view publicly that in order to advance the general cause of railway administration, in order to ensure that the railway system should be efficient and in order to attract the right kind of people into its service, the purpose of a railway must be re-defined, as it has been here. There is, therefore, very little difference of view as a whole among those who are responsible for railway administration. In fact, some of the heads of the railways said things to me that were most disquieting, such as the head of one railway who said that in the future railways will have to be entirely concerned with high speed  express traffic. I think he was exaggerating when he spoke in that way but nevertheless he was a person of very great experience.
I also had an opportunity at this conference of collecting data and the circumstances in which railways close in other countries. It is rather hard to get these facts unless you meet the people who are preparing reports of railway administrations in general. I found, for example, that the French Government in its wisdom has allowed some 8,000 miles of railways to be closed for passenger services in the last few years and some 1,360 miles to be closed for goods purposes, and that they have a standard there which is much harsher from the standpoint of the railway lover than that adopted here when they make their first decision to close a railway. Their standard is that if there are less than 350 passengers per day counting over the whole system it is no longer an economic railway and should be replaced by a road service.
I do not think I need stress all the facts again because Deputies will realise they can always discuss CIE policy in general at the time of the Estimate. They can if they wish at a later stage have a special debate on the annual report in accordance with the suggestion made by the Taoiseach some two years ago. Because of that I think the question of the future of CIE was not raised significantly. We are half-way through the period of operation of the present Act, that the whole question of the future of CIE will again be examined by the Government and that further proposals for legislation will be placed before the House.
Perhaps I should deal with one more question which I think is a fair question to ask: why is it that the Ceann Comhairle does not permit many questions of a very detailed character to be answered on the running of State companies? I should like to remind the House that at the end of the discussions on last year's Estimate I made a detailed statement on what I regarded the work of my Department to be in its relation to the Dáil and nobody  since then has questioned what I said. Apparently people did not bother to read it but I did make an effort to adumbrate and expand to some degree on another much more important statement made by the Taoiseach on an earlier occasion when he was speaking —I think I am right in saying—to the Institute of Public Administration on the general relations of State companies to the Dáil and to the Ministers concerned. It is a highly controversial subject on which one could talk for hours but I think it is true to say that quite as many socialists as conservatives consider it important to allow these State companies a good deal of freedom in their operation.
If perpetual Dáil questions were to be continually asked on the revenue and expenditure of every single branch of every single State concern, it would be impossible for the companies to get on with their work. There would ensue a kind of lobbying in respect of individual areas and a making use of information which, by itself, might not give a really accurate picture of the position because it would be far too limited in scope. It would not relate to the whole set of facts required in relation to the complete operation of the company. The result would be that it would be impossible for State companies to operate efficiently. I think most people in the House understand them.
Nobody can deny, in connection with previous debates that we have had on rail closings, that I gave a sufficient amount of information on the whole subject. Therefore, it should not be said by any Deputy that the operation was being carried out under a sort of cloak of darkness so that no one knew what was happening and no one had any idea, except from the general statement of CIE, what particular line was losing money.
I do not think I can be accused of refusing to give that type of general information. Some of the questions asked by Deputy Dr. Browne — and which were turned down by the Chair —first of all, of me; and, secondly, of Dr. Andrews, would, if we were to answer a whole collection of questions of that kind, mean that we should  literally have to set up a board in this House to run CIE. It would be quite impossible to allow companies to proceed with their day-to-day business if they were to be inquisitioned in matters of the utmost detail in relation to their operations.
I do have conferences with the chairmen and boards of these companies. I discuss a great many matters with them. I discuss their annual reports. When there are repetitive complaints of any kind, I deal with them. Nevertheless, we must observe some reasonable balance in relation to the extent to which a State company should operate freely and without interference from day-to-day in its affairs. I do not pretend to be perfect myself in this regard.
If this kind of perpetual inquisition were to take place, I am perfectly certain that one of the results would be, in the case of any Government, the beginning of real political interference, in the worst sense, with the operation of the Company. There would be pressure groups working their way for some specific purpose. Then political discrimination would enter automatically into their operation, which all of us would deplore. That is my answer to Deputy Dr. Browne. There are plenty of socialist-minded people who think it is very important, nevertheless, to allow companies to have a great degree of independence in relation to the sorts of matters raised by Deputy Dr. Browne. I recommend the Bill to the House.
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