Transport (No. 2) Bill, 1974: Second Stage (Resumed).

Thursday, 12 December 1974

Dáil Eireann Debate
Vol. 276 No. 10

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Question again proposed: “That the Bill be now read a Second Time.”

Mr. Moore: Information on Seán Moore  Zoom on Seán Moore  When speaking on this Bill last week I asked what was wrong with CIE. Each year we come here to vote bigger and bigger subsidies for them. Four years ago the loss was £3 million and now we are voting £11 million in order to keep this concern going. It looks as if we will have to do this every year if we want to keep CIE in being. I do not accept that the management or staff of CIE are any less competent than other semi-State companies. One must examine the question of whether the country is too small for CIE or whether CIE are too big for the country. A rail system in any country consists of thousands of miles of track but we have not got a densely populated country such as they have in the United Kingdom and on the Continent and there is less potential passenger traffic for CIE. However, they must maintain tracks, the mainline tracks, stations and staff.

CIE must be looked at within the context of the European Economic Community and in order to keep viable they have to look for an expansion of their services outside the country. They are doing it at the moment with their tours and ferries but they have got to look east and see how they can expand their services there in order to collect sufficient revenue to subsidise the whole concern. They cannot remain financially static. They will have to have an ever-expanding outlook unless the Oireachtas is prepared to go ahead every year voting bigger and bigger sums to them. That is not an attractive proposition. I am sure the management [1627] of CIE would not accept this and I believe the Dáil would have to ask some very critical questions about what we would do with this concern.

The Minister in an interjection said that 66 per cent of CIE's revenue went on wages. I do not doubt what the Minister says but it seems an amazingly high percentage. I intend to quote figures later which will not cast doubt on the Minister's statement but which will bring us down to earth when we realise the smallness of some of the salaries and wages paid and also the frightful pension position.

I think this could all be ungraded. This being a particularly sensitive semi-State concern we should have, naturally, a management of professional people; but we should also enlarge the board to include representatives of the trade unions and the travelling public by having somebody from, say, the Consumers' Association. In that way we would get a broader look at the problems, the professional people on the board would be made more aware of the feelings of the public regarding the services and the trade unions would become more aware of the problems facing any concern involving so many trade unions.

If the Minister appointed such a board he would find many people willing and competent to serve on it. We should try anything rather than go on paying ever-mounting subsidies, which is not a healthy sign in any concern. We demand a service from CIE and in many cases we are not getting it. Therefore, we have a duty in this House to try to say where we see the faults and how these might be corrected.

We had a very prolonged strike this year in CIE which caused grave loss of revenue to the management and resulted in grave losses in wages and salaries, particularly wages, to those involved. The public took a very serious view of the whole matter and the Minister for Labour has set up an inquiry into this strike. Strikes do not happen; they are caused by something [1628] and there must be some reason why CIE seems so prone to strikes. There are rumours of another strike threat in a section of the bus service at present. We might therefore consider why there is so much unrest among the personnel, particularly in the bus section, and why this city particularly can have its bus services disrupted so frequently.

I have been speaking to some of those who man the buses and work in different capacities for CIE. They have listed certain grievances which I accept as being genuine complaints because, for a man to drive a bus through the traffic of any city, and particularly Dublin, is a very onerous and tiring task. I have not seen figures regarding drivers' health but I imagine that the incidence of illness is very high. If, in these days of higher employment rates, CIE finds it difficult to recruit bus drivers this must bring home to the management that there is something wrong in that section. I am also told that the condition of the vehicles leaves much to be desired and that is something that must be corrected right away.

When a person has worked for many years he should be able to look forward to having a decent pension but this is not so in CIE. The top pension I see on a list I have been given appears to be £7.50 a week for life; or, if a man wants to cut that short, he could have an increased sum for a small number of years and his widow would also get a gratuity provided he dies within five years of retirement. That seems to be a sort of penal clause because naturally a man wants to live but in this case he must die within five years of retiring or else there will be no lump sum. These are annoying things.

The pension for women is far worse. For instance, a woman who has worked all her life in CIE would, on retirement, get a weekly pension of £2.75 for life or she could opt for a ten year payment of £2.90 and afterwards get £2.53. Can one imagine what a person could do with a pension of £2.53 a week today? I presume she would have a State pension but she would have paid for that. If there is [1629] something wrong with the industrial relations in CIE, and there is, I suggest that the personnel department examine the possibility of introducing an improved pension scheme, which I am sure could be negotiated with the unions. If, instead of talking of industrial relations we spoke of human relations we might have a happier set of workers in CIE with a much better service generally being given to the public.

I hope that when the Minister for Labour, when he is inquiring into the recent CIE bus strike, will probe the pension scheme there. CIE have 20,000 employees among whom are many women who do manual work. Of the company's entire revenue, 66 per cent goes to wages and salaries and I note from the 1972 report that the maximum wage paid to a woman is £11.75 per week. That is not a wage that will attract the best employees and I am sure that although they have got the benefits of interim national wage agreements, because of inflation the value of their wages is still far below standard. This is something the management will have to remedy quickly if there is to be a satisfied staff and consequently an efficient service.

On the Dublin scene, I suggest CIE's activities should not be left entirely to the Department of Transport and Power. Other Departments, such as Local Government and Finance, are indirectly or directly involved. CIE have been examining the situation vis-á-vis planned new motorways in the Dublin area and there has been talk about the laying down of underground railways to ease city traffic. I doubt if the latter proposition will ever come to anything, whether the population growth would justify it or the massive capital input would be worthwhile.

In any case, traffic patterns in Dublin will change enormously in the near future and it is vital that CIE should not be inhibited through the interests of the two local authorities —the corporation and county council —and by the requirements of the Garda Commissioner. It will become more and more necessary that there [1630] be co-ordination between all these bodies so that CIE will be enabled to give a good city public transport system in the new road pattern. This co-ordination between the authorities concerned and CIE will also be necessary in cities like Cork, Limerick and Galway.

This reminds me of the position in regard to the old Harcourt Street railway line. Parts of it have now been sold; otherwise it could have been the site for a motorway or a busway. In any case, it should be possible to provide some sort of CIE terminus at Harcourt Street from and to which suburban bus services could operate, thus easing the volume of traffic on the city perimeter.

All of these things, I suggest, render it desirable that there should be an expanded CIE board of management. Ordinary people may think managing a body like CIE is a simple matter. That is far from being the case. There are many complex aspects to be considered, one of them being whether the public will accept the continuing necessity to subsidise CIE from taxation and at the same time have fares increased from year to year. In four years CIE's losses have risen from £3 million to £14 million. We will find, following that pattern, that in six months the £11 million we are now voting to the company will have to be augmented by a considerable further sum.

People may ask why there cannot be economies. Economies generally mean a poorer service and this is not acceptable to the public who through taxation and higher fares have already been paying far too much for public transport. We must remember that the vast majority of the public do not own motor cars and have to rely on CIE services, and one of these days increased subventions by the public by way of taxation and fares will cause them to cry “halt”.

One of the strange contradictions of modern times is that as the country gets more prosperous the burden of travel increases. In Dublin in the past few years we have found that some of the biggest industries have moved to the suburbs, to places like [1631] Tallaght on the south-west and Kilbarrack and Coolock on the north side. Unfortunately, we have not got such a perfect society that one can offer a man a house near his job. So, he has to pay increased bus fares in order to get to his employment. On my route the fare is 9p for a very short run into the city. A man may have to travel from the south side to the centre and then to the north-side or to Tallaght. The bus fares come out of the man's wages and that may represent a real problem for a family man. Unfortunately, employment is not so plentiful that a man can choose a job. If his firm decide in the interest of efficiency to move out from a traffic choked city the man may be asked to pay CIE twice, namely, in taxation to provide a subsidy and through increased bus fares.

I would ask the Minister to assure the House that an increase in bus fares will not be allowed. This may not come under the Minister's direct responsibility. It is the responsibility of his colleague the Minister for Industry and Commerce. A decision must be made that CIE are to be subsidised, as they are, and that lower paid workers will not be asked to pay twice, will not be penalised by having to pay increased bus fares.

There is sufficient expertise in the Department to devise a system whereby persons who travel over certain distances to work will pay what used be called the workman's fare. This system is in existence in Britain and other countries but not here. The losses in the British transport system are not less than ours in proportion to size. If we are to have a reasonable transport system and equitable distribution of paying the cost we must stop assuming that either all our people have cars—they have not—or that they are well able to pay the higher fares. It may well be that a man will decide that it is not worthwhile to keep a job in the outer suburbs of the city if he has to pay ever-rising prices for inadequate bus services. In principle I support national pay agreements. They are the best thing for people. We have to ensure that they are not eroded by [1632] increasing bus fares which penalise the energetic man who wants to rear his family by his own effort and who takes a job in the outer suburbs of a city and is then compelled to pay high bus fares.

It may be suggested that the subsidy helps to keep bus fares down. I suspect that there has been some little collusion between the Government and CIE in the matter of the subsidy. We know that CIE could do with a much larger subsidy but has there been any promise given that when we vote this money to CIE, which will fall short of their needs, increased bus fares will make up the deficit or will there be a curtailment of services which would not be acceptable? It is an easy way out to curtail services. We are asking for a national transport system which will meet our needs. We are a reasonable people. We do not always protest when there are delays in transport services but the time has come when big decisions on this matter must be made.

I have already suggested that the day may come when bus services like water supplies will be free inasmuch as they will be paid for by taxation. The city streets are choked every morning and evening with motorcars carrying one or two passengers and the unfortunate bus driver has to take his juggernaut of a bus through the streets. The bus may hold 70 persons who want to get home or to get to work. Some inducement must be held out to the motorist not to bring his car into the city. I am against any compulsion in this matter but I would suggest that the bus service should be made so attractive that the motorist would prefer to use it. It is a chicken and egg situation. People buy cars in order to get to their business because the bus service is so bad. Every car on the street helps to create traffic chaos.

The Government and CIE should consider how CIE should be financed. There should be an end to this stop-go business of filling a gap in CIE revenue by an annual subsidy. It makes one rather cynical as to our ability to see ahead when one remembers the days when legislation was passed by this House which implied that CIE must pay their own way “or [1633] else”. We never asked what the “or else” meant because we dared not. We realise that CIE must be maintained.

There are many ways by which CIE could increase their revenue. They could expand outside the country, which is not unusual. In fact, they have started already and I commend them for their efforts in this respect but they could go much further.

When peace returns to the north-eastern part of the country and when we have an upsurge in the tourist industry CIE will be much better off. We should turn the present situation to some good. Now that tourists are not very plentiful the CIE management should plan how they might be attracted here in more normal times.

Perhaps CIE are indulging in too many activities. It may be said that their job is only one dealing with transport but I do not agree. They have made commendable attempts to enlarge the scope of the organisation and in some cases it has paid dividends. However, they are not rethinking their policies sufficiently to ensure that this will be the last time the Dáil will have to spend time and money in subsidising them. The pattern in the last few years has been that it is nearly automatic that CIE will ask for more money each year.

It has been suggested that private enterprise should be given a chance of providing a public service but such firms would not attempt to run an organisation like CIE. Naturally private enterprise will only consider a venture that gives promise of a profit. I do not see anything wrong in that but we must accept the fact that CIE in running the bus, train and haulage services must pay the drivers, conductors and other workers the full trade union rates. While it is possible that in some sectors private enterprise could do some of the work of CIE at a cheaper rate, the employees would suffer because they would not get the same rates or have the same conditions that obtain in CIE. I have mentioned that the conditions of some of the personnel serving on the buses in Dublin are not what might be called a bed of roses but how much worse would it be if [1634] private enterprise were given the chance of running the bus services? Some of us recall when there were about ten different companies running a bus service in the city. I do not know if we had an efficient service then but the Government of the day decided to amalgamate all the services. At least we have a more stable system but we are paying dearly for it.

During the years CIE have brought in many consultants to advise on what should be done but nobody has come up with a solution to the problems and nobody ever will. The whole pattern of public transport throughout the world is one of constant problems. Some countries have succeeded better than we have but, at the same time, I do not think there is any transport authority in the world paying its way without State subvention. We must face the fact that CIE will never become a profitable concern but we object to being asked to pay through taxation for the very existence of the company.

There has been much criticism of CIE management. However, it is very easy to criticise management, just as it is easy to criticise politicians. Probably there is a grain of truth in the criticism but the full picture showing the shortcomings and the virtues of CIE and politicians is never given. I should like the Minister to tell us his views on the future of CIE and to let us know if the Government have any proposals on the matter. In this Estimate we are giving CIE more that £11 million and it would be nice to hear from the Minister that next year things will be better. However, I do not think he will be able to give us that assurance and I am sure that next year the House will have to deal with this matter once again.

The time has come to look at CIE in a new light. We must start first with the management which must be enlarged to take in other interests besides professional men. I appreciate the Government have appointed outsiders to the board but today we cannot ignore the voice of the people who use CIE services. Let us try to make it a national body; in this context I mean a representative body where [1635] matters ranging from pension schemes to industrial relations may be discussed. We had a nine-weeks' strike not long ago; it was not a case of who does what but rather it was a struggle with the unions. In my view, and this is shared by many others, there are too many unions in CIE. At the moment the House is in the process of considering legislation regarding trade union amalgamation and I hope this will offer some hope to the unions to try to have one big union and thus realise the aim of one of the founders of the movement. If we had such a situation the men and women trade unionists would be in a far stronger position and the management would be in a better position when negotiating. In addition, passengers would not have been deprived of a bus service for nine weeks and the men involved in the strike would not have had to exist on a starvation income while they fought a battle in which they believed.

With the new board there could be a much fairer deal given to the general public and to the staff of CIE. Perhaps the personnel department would examine many of the minor details. Transport employees in Ireland and Britain are given what are called “privilege tickets” for free travel on holidays. In Ireland certain categories are given free or partly free travel in the EEC. It is a great attraction but certain people like busmen are denied this. Those are small things perhaps but they are the sort of irritants that build up and result in strikes which cause hardship to the people involved and to the general public and a loss of revenue to the company.

If I were asked to state priorities I would say a beginning should be made in the personnel department to probe the question of what causes strikes. I would then suggest that CIE should see how they can expand their business. They have certain monopolies. They claim they have not got enough and this may be true but they have an opportunity, under the new management, of coming straight to the public and telling them what they want and telling the Government what they want. Let us have a straightforward deal on the future of CIE.

[1636] With 20,000 employees it is a very important factor in our economy. We cannot afford to have an inefficient transport service. Competition is increasing every day from EEC countries. Our system must at least match theirs. We must encourage CIE to expand rather than cut their services. It is only in expansion that there will be any hope for CIE. If they cut back on their services they are not doing the job for which they were put there.

I hope some of the things I have said will bear fruit. Certainly CIE must change their tactics and the Government should prepare a proper transport plan embracing CIE, the Department of Local Government in so far as roads are concerned, the Department of Finance and even the Department of Justice which controls the Garda—the Garda being the traffic authority. We should get all those together plus representatives of the travelling public. They have as much right to be on the board as any other person there. No man would speak as plainly as the Dublin bus traveller, who spends half an hour waiting at a bus stop on a wet winter evening, if somebody asked him what is wrong with CIE.

The Government, of course, have greater power than any of the other bodies to bring about a change. I hope the Minister will tell us what the Government intend to do. I hope he will tell us too that having voted this money as a subsidy to CIE we will not be asked by his colleague, the Minister for Industry and Commerce, to sanction another increase in bus fares this year. However, reading the background to the subsidy and bearing in mind the growing rate of inflation I fear CIE's next subsidy may come from the travelling public.

Mr. M.E. Dockrell: Information on Maurice E. Dockrell  Zoom on Maurice E. Dockrell  I should like to congratulate the Minister and the Government generally on their courage in introducing this Bill because an extra expenditure of £11 million at a time like this is something no Government could contemplate lightly or with any degree of pleasure. Yet in the sorry history of CIE down through the years it has become increasingly [1637] necessary to rescue it from what really are the effects of the invention and the spread of the internal combustion engine. That, in a nutshell, is what is facing every railway in the world and has closed down many of them. We have had to close down branch lines and all over Europe the same thing has happened. The work which was done so efficiently by small branch lines in their day is now being carried out to a greater or lesser degree of efficiency by buses.

Large quantities of commercial goods used be carried by CIE. Now they are carried by the operating fleets of the firms concerned. They can in many cases do it more cheaply—perhaps not what appear superficially to be cheaper but cheaper in the sense that they can supply a service which a company like CIE would find it very difficult to emulate. They cannot do the same with their national spread of vehicles as a firm can do concentrating on carrying certain types of goods on varied local distribution basis no matter how far it may be from the manufacturing or distributing centre of the firm concerned.

That is very much at the root of the trouble of CIE and that is echoed by every major railway in the world unless because of the poverty of the country concerned the people have not been able to make full use of the motor car or motor lorry. That is the great difficulty and it seems to me to be almost insurmountable.

Deputy Moore in his good and constructive speech did not attempt to attack the Minister on this. Of course, he could not because the Fianna Fáil Government were unable to solve the CIE problem and sometimes, in the course of their long periods in Government, they did things which we did not think were wise. Certainly I did not think they were wise and I do not think time has shown the wisdom of some of the things they did. Years ago they took over the tramway company which was operating very successfully. I admit there were not as many motor cars in the city at that time, but the trams were superb vehicles. They could carry very large numbers [1638] of passengers. They were powerful. They were cumbersome and they were slow, but there might have been a further use for them had they been left on our streets. They ran on electricity. They were replaced by buses, more convenient admittedly for the public but also more expensive. They could not carry the people as efficiently as the trams did. When the trams were on the streets one never saw long queues waiting for transport. Today one sees nothing but long, long queues. Stand at the top of Dawson Street—it happens in other streets too but it seems to have a greater impact in Dawson Street—and one sees long queues waiting for transport out of the city. Then suddenly a cavalcade of buses turns the corner at Nassau Street, at least three of which will be for the same destination. That may not necessarily be a fault, but it is one of the defects in the system today.

I am not advocating going back to the trams though I believe it was a mistake to do away with them. They were taken off the streets just before World War II and, whilst we had our own electricity, it was increasingly difficult to get oil or petrol. The same situation exists today. Not everybody thought that the step taken by the Government at the time was a good step. I believe the trams could have continued in operation for many years. Trolley cars operate in many cities on the Continent and they seem to be fairly efficient. They certainly handle large numbers of people and one does not see in these continental cities queues waiting for transport, though trolley cars create traffic problems of their own.

The point I want to make is that there is no royal road to the solution of this problem. That is something no politician likes to hear. The Opposition like to thunder at the Government and say that if the Government did such and such there would be no problem. That very rarely is true. We may blame CIE for all sorts of things. We may blame labour. Labour can create very great difficulties through inter-union squabbling and fighting and the public can be held up unnecessarily to ransom, extremely [1639] cruelly; this is something that would not be tolerated from another body in a trade union. Anything that helps to ease difficulties between unions or between union and management should have the support of Members on both sides of this House.

CIE do their best to cope with the situation. One of the difficulties is that people try to use a bus as they would a taxi or a private car. Free transport for senior citizens is a very good idea but our senior citizens are not without their own little methods of using the buses. I was in London within the last six months and on to the bus got a whole crowd of people who produced their cards. The bus conductor told me he was pestered with these people because they used the bus in the same way as they would use a taxi. He said that sometimes they travelled only as far as the next stop, a distance of 50 or possibly 100 yards. Others were apt to go for long trips and he said: “We find that regular passengers going to work, especially at lunch time, getting to lunch and back to offices and so on, find great difficulty.” He was humorous about it. He did not think there was very much one could do about it, but sometimes it was a factor in overcrowding buses. I merely mention this as one of the difficulties. Not for one moment do I think that the solution lies in taking the free transport cards away from certain categories of elderly people, or anything like that. I mention it only because it is one of the difficulties with which a transport company have to contend. The personnel wish to be kind to the elderly, and are kind to the elderly, and they wish to do their duty in trying to get workmen back to their factories or to what I might call their lawful occasions during rush hours.

This subject is very complex. Essentially it has arisen through our own inventiveness as human beings with the invention of the internal combustion engine. Our city streets were not designed for this vast movement of traffic, of people in cars and in buses. Except from a health point [1640] of view, I do not suggest that we should do what I saw in a South American city, the city of San Paulo in Brazil. They have an enormous traffic problem. There are vast roads in and out of the city. They have fly-overs. There seemed to be millions of people walking about the streets. They have a very beautiful climate which we have not got. For instance, today nobody would walk very far in the rain for sheer pleasure. It might do their health a great deal of good. That does not refer to people who have to get into work in the morning and are going home tired in the evening. Those are the people we think of. Those are the times when we have the difficulties.

We must keep plugging along. Dublin Corporation must do their bit. I do not think that the corporation and the local authorities have done all they should in widening corners and widening streets to ease the flow of traffic. I see traffic bunching up in the centre of the city. An underground tunnel would do away with hold-ups in traffic. I am thinking of Westmoreland Street and around O'Connell Bridge where one sees the traffic held up and people surging across the road taking their lives in their hands, but they have to get across.

I remember speaking to an engineer some years ago. He was near retirement. When people are near retirement they tend to take a conservative view. He said it was quite impossible in many cases to provide these subterranean passages in Dublin because of electricity and water and sewerage services, but that applies to every city in the world. Underground passages have interfered with these services but they have been provided successfully. The corporation should consider this to ease the traffic problems.

A certain amount of work has been done on the approaches to Dublin. Everybody knows that a great deal of work is being done on the Stillorgan Road. It is not being done for its employment content or because of the amount of Irish cement it uses. It is being done to increase the flow of traffic and to help transport. Work is about to be done on the way out to Lucan and that part of the county. [1641] That is a very slow road. It is not a question of being able to thunder along at a fast speed. Industry depends on the flow of traffic like the arterial flow of blood in the body. Traffic must be able to move smoothly for the benefit not only of industry but also of private individuals who have the right to get home as quickly as possible without their frustrations being increased enormously—or somewhat, according to their temperament —by being held up in a bus, or a lorry, or a private car.

Increasingly the private car is being used by workers to an extent which was unknown even a few years ago, and a very good thing it is, too, to see new categories of our population able to afford what is not always a luxury, namely, a motorcar. Where does that get us in relation to CIE? It gets us to the point that I have a great deal of sympathy with CIE. They have an almost impossible task. We are in a time of transition, a time of change. There is evidence that a great deal of thinking is going on in CIE. They are not a dyed-in-the-wool company. They can bear comparison with transport companies in other much wealthier countries with a more concentrated population.

We have a small population. We have not got a great industrial population. We have widespread areas to which we have to send buses. We have to serve focal points sometimes with railways, sometimes with buses from Cork, or Limerick, or Dublin or the other large—by Irish standards— centres of population. With our small population that can only be done at considerable expense. That is inescapable.

With petrol and oil at such a high price the movement of goods and people by CIE is bound to increase. The Minister knows the details of that aspect better than I and CIE are aware of them also.

In my view the solution, if a solution can be found to increasing costs, lies in inventions. Just as an invention caused these difficulties, the invention of the motor car, an invention will also solve the problem. At the time of the invention of the motor car the [1642] railways were booming and stock of railway companies was trustee security. It was regarded as being as safe as the most conservative bank in Europe but that changed in a short space of time. In my view the solution to the difficulties may come more dramatically than we imagine through some invention.

The use of electricity, the greater possibility of storage of electricity, the greater possibility of the cheap transmission of electricity are matters that can be considered. An invention which has not yet been put to proper use in transport is a method by which electricity, by freezing, can be transmitted long distances with almost no loss of transmission power. That invention has been referred to by one scientist—I do not know whether he was over-enthusiastic—as the greatest invention for mankind since the invention of the wheel. The difficulty is that it has not yet been turned to real commercial possibilities. It has been stated that any one Government spending a few hundred million pounds on this could achieve a real breakthrough.

I do not suggest that our Government should spend that type of money on this invention nor do I suggest that CIE should consider this yet. However I feel sure that they have their eye on it and that they have gone into the costings. The day has not yet arrived when it is possible to transport oil or coal by plane at an economic price. In my view very interesting possibilities lie ahead.

I congratulate the Minister on his courage. We have got to keep CIE going. We have to make it as near an economic proposition as is possible. Government subsidies are not bad, but undoubtedly, fares will have to go up. The various local authorities will have to be encouraged to widen corners, to construct underground passages where advisable, or to build bridges so that people can cross busy roads without risks. These will help to keep down the cost of transportation, which is tremendous.

It has been stated that CIE are taking on too much. Some people feel that the company should not be involved [1643] in running hotels or restaurants. My view is that it is very necessary for CIE to be concerned in the hotel business. All CIE hotels are of a very high standard. The CIE restaurant in Dún Laoghaire is first class. I am aware that it is not cheap but we should remember that no good restaurant is cheap. CIE are also to the forefront in encouraging tourists.

I have confidence in the Minister and I support him in his desire to give this extra money to CIE. I accept that the taxpayer will have to meet the bill.

Mr. Cronin: Information on Jeremiah Cronin  Zoom on Jeremiah Cronin  The whole spectrum of CIE's operations has been fully debated here and Deputies have treated this matter very seriously. That is as it should be having regard to the amount of money asked for and the continuing problem of trying to make the public transport system pay for itself. In fairness CIE down the years have played a very important role in the economic development of the country. But for the facility of the railways it would not have been possible to establish the sugar factories in the early thirties. At that time the haulage of beet and beet by-products constituted a sizeable proportion of the income of CIE. It is an interesting statistic that at the beginning of the sugar industry railway deliveries represented 80 per cent of the beet delivered to the sugar factories. The other 20 per cent was delivered by road. That pattern has been completely reversed and the bulk of beet is delivered by private hauliers.

We have also seen the phasing out of rail transport for livestock as part of the company's rationalisation programme and the withdrawal of freight facilities from a number of small stations. Of course various factors have influenced this change, such as the additional handling costs, delays, and so on. Perhaps it is seen that road transport is more efficient and speedier. However, in the light of recent measures in regard to fuel prices, probably with worse to come, which will have the effect also of increasing the cost of road transportation, CIE should take another hard [1644] look at their position and make a more determined effort to attract people back to rail transport. Of course the increased useage of roads in itself, creates problems, problems of maintenance, as well as increasing traffic on roads already overburdened. Naturally this makes for increased hazards and greater dangers.

I am opposed to the withdrawal of rail facilities. This would be a retrograde step. There are proposals for the withdrawal of rail freight services at a number of East Cork stations between Cork and Youghal. This is bad judgment in the light of the fact that East Cork is a highly industrialised area with enormous potential for further industrial development. It is one of the most prosperous areas in the country. With those prospects for CIE in respect of transportation, revenue for CIE would be considerably increased also. I would ask CIE to examine further this proposal of the withdrawal of facilities, particularly bearing in mind the prospects of increased business in the future. As well as that, I would regard this measure as being, the thin end of the wedge to the complete withdrawal of the services in due course. Because of the reasons I have outlined already in relation to fuel problems, road hazards and so on—all inherent in the increase in road traffic —CIE's thinking should revert to rail transport again. In a general way, in relation to rail and road traffic, CIE should not surrender so readily. Rather should their approach be an attacking one. With the financial resources at their disposal it is a poor show on their part that rail freight has increased by only 1 per cent in the past 12 months.

Another matter to which I should like to draw attention is the position of CIE pensioners. When we speak in terms of subventions of £14 million, it is sad to reflect that CIE pensioners in my own town of Mallow, after 40 years' service, have as little as £3.68 per week pension. This is a situation which should be corrected. I have no doubt that the Minister is a sensible and generous man and will take whatever steps lie within his capacity to [1645] ensure that those people are suitably compensated for their many years of effort, under difficult conditions, in the provision of necessary services. We all know a huge profit is being accumulated each year by way of contributions from employers, employees and on foot of interest accruing to the pension fund. It is socially unjust that such a situation should be allowed continue. Those pensioners have a strict entitlement to a better deal.

I note that reference is not made to school transport in the Minister's speech. I am wondering what is the significance of that. Is it true that there is a deliberate move, afoot to cut back on this facility? If so, I should like to be informed. But, in the light of decisions taken in North-East Cork, in the areas I know well, it would appear there is a danger that there may be some tightening up or cut back on school transport. Borderline cases are being rejected. This is not what one would expect to be done in relation to the care and treatment of children. I should be glad to hear from the Minister, what is the policy in relation to school transport. I am aware of a situation in Cork where seven children who qualify for primary school transport are unable to receive that facility because the number involved would not justify the provision of transport for them. This is all wrong because we should cherish all our children equally. I would think that the number involved is sufficient to warrant a slight roundabout route to facilitate them in transportation to the national school.

Having made those remarks, it is only fair to pay a compliment where it is deserved. I do so to CIE in respect of their rail passenger services from the provinces. This service, as I know it from Cork city to Dublin anyway— I cannot speak for the rest of the country but I take it that those services are on a par—is second to none. As my colleague, Deputy Crowley, said in his contribution on this Bill some days ago, the only complaint to be found in respect of the rail service from Cork to Dublin is the cost of food. These costs are outlandish but are, I suppose, on a par with conditions generally.

[1646] CIE's treatment of the tourist industry has been quite satisfactory. I would not criticise the provision of grade A hotels. This is a necessary amenity, one we should have and at which no criticism can be levelled. CIE have played their part fully in the promotion of tourism.

Again, as was mentioned by Deputy Crowley in the course of his contribution, I was rather disappointed to find that a question we both had put down in relation to the transportation of livestock from Cork to Dublin was disallowed. The question asked the Minister to look into the withdrawal of rail wagons from Cork to Dublin. The question was ruled out on the grounds that the Minister had no function in the matter. This is a pity. The Minister should be in a position to answer a question on policy, which that was—a policy to withdraw a certain type of service—having regard to the amount of money which the House and the Minister through his Department makes available to CIE. The policy of referring matters back to CIE without the Minister giving a reply himself, is not a good one. I would request the Minister again to examine that aspect of his responsibilities.

It is easy to criticise CIE. In fairness to them, very often they are placed in the position of being asked to provide uneconomic services. We are all familiar with that aspect. We cannot deny it. It is a fact of life. Inevitably one finds that when a service is about to be withdrawn in any area, perhaps mainly a passenger service, there will be an immediate cry from the community for its restoration. Therefore, against all economic rules that service has to be restored. CIE have to find some other way in which to offset the loss incurred in retaining that uneconomic service. On the other hand, the appearance of restrictive practices in CIE is not helping their cause.

In some instances it is considered to be a more viable proposition for CIE to engage private transport to undertake certain haulage jobs. In any such arrangement CIE take 7 per cent in commission from the [1647] private haulier, but I am sure that it could be arranged for the company to handle this business themselves.

Regarding the situation within CIE, there may be too many grades. If people were more versatile there would be the prospect of a more efficient and economic operation. If more common sense were applied at all levels within the company the losses might be reduced considerably. From my experience of dealing with CIE personnel I know them to be responsible and decent people anxious that the company and their jobs be preserved. However I would not be so complimentary in so far as the management are concerned. It is at that level that an example in leadership should be shown. There are not being provided the best possible measures to offset the wastage that is occurring in the company. On the other side of the coin one hears of instances of CIE trucks being left waiting to take on a load of merchandise while other vehicles that arrived later are serviced first. Very often the driver of the CIE truck is told to come back later only to find in the second instance that he is to be left waiting further. The attitude seems to be that, like an insurance company, CIE can afford to wait. These are matters in which the general public have a responsibility.

In conclusion, I wish to register a protest against the occurrence of bus strikes in Dublin and I ask the Minister to apply himself in particular to this plague. The strikes appear to occur at times that can do most damage to our tourist trade. They have a damaging affect on the economy and on the morale of the people. In recent years they have been occurring too frequently. I am confident however that these strikes could be avoided if there were more communication and more common sense on the part of all concerned.

Mr. Coogan: Information on Fintan Coogan  Zoom on Fintan Coogan  We are asked here to vote millions of pounds to CIE but we will not have an opportunity of knowing how this money is spent. As is the case in respect of some of our other boards, it is time that there was some examination at the headquarters [1648] of CIE. We know that, after devoting a lifetime of excellent service to the company, workers are given only a miserable pension while those who made a mess of things were given a golden handshake. If a worker were to create the same havoc in the company as was created in the past by some of the people who were at the top, he would not be there long enough to get any pension.

The public should know what they are being asked to pay for. The present system is one that the Minister has inherited. Now is the time for change so that in respect of the boards of all these semi-State companies we would know how public moneys are being spent.

The rail service is not paying, but that is not a situation peculiar to Ireland. Indeed one might ask if any public service is paying, although the Dublin bus services are an economic proposition. We know that roads have to be maintained and that often major reconstruction works are necessary. However, roads are essential and must be kept in order. The same might be said of many other services too. To get back to the rail service, the conditions of travel compare favourably with any other mode of travel. New and better carriages are being fitted to trains. However, I doubt whether the rail service is satisfactory to the majority of our people. We must remember that our railways were not planned to cater for the needs of the population generally. They were geared to meet the needs of the lords of other days and of the landed gentry who were in power then and who could dictate where the railroads would be built. These people ensured that the service would facilitate them. It is hardly any wonder, then, that so many of the stations have closed. All of that is past history but it is no harm to bear it in mind. Those people the railways were built to suit wished to be kept far away from the ordinary people and that is why I say that the rail service does not suit the majority of our population.

If VIPs have occasion to travel by rail today they go first-class and we can assume that the best service is laid on for them. The energy crisis will [1649] probably lead people to think more in terms of rail travel. I might mention that many years ago, when we were switching from steam to oil, I warned here of the danger of being dependent entirely on one source of energy. If the situation were to worsen we no longer have steam engines that could be put into use. So far as I know there is only one of these vehicles available and I doubt if that is in any condition to be of much use. What would be the position in the event of there being a complete cut off of oil supplies?

Transport charges would make one think. Only yesterday a man told me he bought two stone of seed potatoes here in Dublin and wanted them sent home. It cost him £1.25. How can CIE expect to get traffic back with those charges? It is just as well he did not send the spade with them.

Mr. Hussey: Information on Thomas Hussey  Zoom on Thomas Hussey  Or a bag of fertiliser?

Mr. Coogan: Information on Fintan Coogan  Zoom on Fintan Coogan  If that was the case he would have to leave the potatoes to grow in the CIE sheds. Reference has been made to the cutting off of buses in the event of the non-availability of oil. Our trams were cut off in the past. That was a retrograde step. On the Continent you will see these trams all over the place. They give a very good service, and they are not depending on oil. It is about time that there was some imagination used in the provision by CIE of transport facilities for the public. I warned previously about the oil shortage and the then Minister said a go-ahead authority would look after this. I said that there would be no such thing as going ahead if there was no oil and that that day might come sooner than we thought.

In the event of a cut off of oil, have we even one steam engine to take over, or will we have a Bianconi car? I do not think there will be even a horse available. Then we shall be throwing up our hands in horror and asking: “Where do we stand?” We shall be left standing. I would like the Minister to use a little imagination in regard to the future set-up.

Mr. Hussey: Information on Thomas Hussey  Zoom on Thomas Hussey  This Bill has been debated at length, which shows the [1650] interest that Deputies from both sides of the House have in this service which is a national service. Unfortunately, we cannot examine in greater detail the workings of CIE and its many ancillary services. I would agree with the suggestion from both sides that the affairs of CIE should be examined by a select committee of all parties of this House. Perhaps it is not possible for CIE to run their business and make a profit, because it is providing a social service. Nevertheless, that should not give them a free hand to continue on the slippery slope on which we are today with a deficit of £11.67 million or, in a full year, over £14 million.

It is depressing to note the progressive deterioration in the board's financial position. Any firm or board involved in a situation like this would have to give an account of their stewardship at their annual general meeting. We here, as watchdogs of the taxpayers, should be entitled to question the running of CIE and how this huge deficit has arisen. The Minister says:

The main reason for the excess of £4.7 million in the board's deficit over the Estimates provision was the decision of the Government to ameliorate the impact of the July, 1974, increases in CIE rates and fares by limiting the increases in Dublin city bus and suburban rail fares and provincial city and town bus fares to 20 per cent, instead of the 33 per cent increase proposed by CIE and approved by the National Prices Commission. This, combined with a delay of three months in the implementation of the increases, resulted in a reduction of an estimated £3.3 million in the anticipated yield from the increased charges.

I do not think that kind of dilly-dallying should be allowed to continue. We have seen the proposals that were outlined during the year by CIE in the modernisation and development of the board's rail and road service. Here, again, we see the position begins to get dangerous and a huge deficit in the running of the service is shown. The board look [1651] around for places in which they can do some pruning. There is no talk at all about starting to prune at the top.

It is the workers, the people at the bottom of the ladder, who are always the first to be brought into the firing line when a situation like this arises. I remember talking to somebody who had worked in the railways some years ago, and he told me that at that time the whole western region from Limerick to Galway was covered by one engineer and I do not know how many clerks. Now we have a regiment of these, and this is where the huge expense is incurred in running the board's affairs. If there is any pruning to be done CIE should start there. There is no reason why they should put the ordinary working man's job in jeopardy, why they should create this anxiety for him and his family because there is a prospect of his losing his livelihood through modernisation or reorganisation.

At present there is no Supertrain operating on the western line to Mayo. This line serves part of North Galway, Mayo and Roscommon, and so far I have seen none of those trains operating. They are operating on most other lines. I cannot understand why the West should be left last. We are entitled to the same treatment as the people in Cork, the Minister's county.

Mr. P. Barry: Information on Peter Barry  Zoom on Peter Barry  And the Acting Chairman's county as well.

Mr. Hussey: Information on Thomas Hussey  Zoom on Thomas Hussey  The people of Mayo and North Galway are also entitled to this facility. I have travelled from Galway to Dublin on some of these trains and found them very comfortable. If I am to hand out a bouquet to CIE I would compliment them on these trains, because the facilities offered are very good compared with those on the old trains which are still in operation on the western line. I hope before too long that we will see at least one of these trains operating on the Westport line which serves a large portion of North Galway, Roscommon and Mayo.

I have had requests from people to have the gates of level crossings widened. Some of these gates are only [1652] nine feet wide. In one case I asked the Minister of the time and CIE to have this level crossing widened in order to cater for modern machinery. A turf-cutting machine had to go through this gate to get into a bog but because the gate was only nine feet wide they could not get the machine through. For some unknown reason, CIE were reluctant to widen this gate at that time, and to my knowledge, it has not been done yet.

Freight trains from the West travel almost empty. Some time ago I and others suggested that those trains should be used to help industry in the West. Industrialists who must transport their goods to Dublin for export could be accommodated on those trains. The transporting of their goods should be subsidised by CIE. This would not cost very much because the trains are already running. Since industrialists in the West must compete with their counterparts in the East, they are at a disadvantage when it comes to shipping their finished product to Dublin for export. Freight rates are very high, as Deputy Coogan pointed out.

Deputy Cronin said that the railways provide a service for factories. This is very true. If it were not for the rail service the beet factory in Tuam would be in serious difficulty because this year the acreage has dropped so much. If CIE would subsidise the industrialists in the West to transport their finished product to Dublin, this would ensure that the trains would be used to the maximum capacity. During the year there was some talk about the reorganisation of CIE, the downgrading of certain stations and the extension of others. This has caused a great deal of concern to interested parties, business people and industrialists alike. There was talk of Tuam, Athenry, Roscommon and Castlerea being re-organised. CIE should make their plans known to everybody concerned so that there can be no doubt about the position of their stations in the years ahead. They should be told in plenty of time in order to plan their businesses. I hope that some of the stations I have mentioned will not be downgraded.

[1653] I attended a meeting in Loughrea with Deputy Callanan and a certain matter was brought to our notice. Apparently the engine which was operating in that station was not strong enough to move the wagons fast enough. People have asked that we press for the reliable engine to be left there, otherwise the service will close down.

In 1973-74, over 12.7 million passengers were carried by CIE rail services. This shows that people can be encouraged to travel by rail if proper services are provided and fares are maintained at a reasonable figure. This is very important. In my view, the reason for the increase in the passenger service is due mainly to the three-day week train fares which have been very successful. CIE should provide a cheap weekend service to the West—take the people home on Friday and back in time for work on Monday. We have suffered migration from the West to the East. Young people may have to travel to Dublin and other areas in search of employment because we have not sufficient employment available in the West. It is important that our young people be encouraged to retain a link with their families, parish and community. CIE could afford to run this service without any great hardship.

Industrial relations in CIE are a very important factor. In the past year we have all seen the hardship caused to the people of Dublin city by the nine week bus strike. It is unfortunate that this kind of thing is allowed develop. The whole structure should be looked into to see if anything can be done to improve relations between the management of CIE and the workers. I know there are a number of unions and it is unfortunate that one union could not look after the affairs of all CIE workers. I know this is a problem for another Department but it is something that should be investigated. I know the Minister would be delighted to see one union in CIE.

Mr. McDonald: Information on Charles B. McDonald  Zoom on Charles B. McDonald  I would like to avail of this opportunity to make a few points. I very much regret that the [1654] situation in CIE is rather difficult at present but I hope the Minister and the company will have a good look at the problems besetting that semi-State body. Rather than repeat the “cure” imposed a few years ago of slashing off branch lines and curtailing services, they should engage in greater investment and try to win back a sizeable amount of our transport business in the country and in international trade.

In the coming years a percentage of funds should be set aside to allow CIE to experiment in the introduction of new services. A commuter service should be established from parts of the country to Dublin where many people commute by motor car. This type of service might show a loss but it is something which CIE should engage in. They should not only lay on a service for people but encourage them to change to a service that would ease the burden on our roads and be a saving on power and oil.

CIE should seriously consider introducing a commuter service between Portlaoise and Dublin. They could have a fast small train leaving at approximately 8 o'clock which would get into Dublin at 9 o'clock. I know approximately 20 people drive from Portlaoise to Dublin every morning and return in the evening and even that number of people could be the basis for this service. I am sure a considerable amount of traffic could be picked up at places like Portarlington, Kildare and Newbridge. I do not believe these people would look for a cheap service. They would prefer to be free from the strain of travelling at 50 miles per hour and spending 1½ to 2 hours on the road at peak periods. This type of experimentation should be carried out without delay.

I would like to see a massive injection of capital into our transport service. During the past two years I have had the experience of commuting in each of the nine capital cities in the European Community. I can see this city will become jammed before the end of this decade. CIE should look closely at the progress that the Belgium railway company are making in Brussels. I do not believe that it would be too costly to connect Dublin Airport with the rail permanent way. A section [1655] of the track could be electrified between Dublin Airport and Dún Laoghaire. Small fast trains could be run at 15 minute intervals. CIE probably would not make a lot of money on the service but we cannot get away from the fact that while they have a monopoly in most areas of public transport their service must always contain an element of social service for the people.

I would not like to see the Minister insisting that CIE should make a profit within X number of years. We should instead urge on them the necessity to provide the best possible service for the greatest number of people. Truck drivers should be encouraged to earn the maximum wage possible. This would lead to greater utilisation of our transport fleet. CIE need a better tie-up with continental services. It is more regrettable that they have only got a tiny proportion of the very profitable market in the freezer trade. We only control, between private enterprise and CIE, something like 17 per cent of this trade. It is unfair to expect our meat industry to rely on this type of service. There should be tie-ups with continental and UK services.

There is a great future for deep freeze transport service. I would like to see CIE building up to 20 million cubic feet of cold storage as part of a new complex which could hold Irish beef. A greater percentage of our beef exports will be in the form of chilled beef. CIE should be able to take whatever profits are to be made for the country out of this business.

The rail services provided by CIE compare favourably with rail systems throughout Europe. CIE are far ahead of British Railways, especially in the midlands, in the conditions of their rolling stock and also cleanliness. The lack of cleanliness on the trains in the British midlands is deplorable. I am glad CIE have better standards. We should be able to provide even a limited service on the lines of the TE, the Trans-European expresses which are very fast. They are small, relatively expensive trains which travel between the capital cities of Europe.

[1656] I do not know if there is a market for that here but perhaps we could provide a less luxurious type of train that would commute between our cities and which would be very fast and give an early morning service. This would attract people. So far as I know the earliest trains from the South arrive in Dublin about 11 a.m. and by any standards, especially European ones, this is not good enough. Eleven o'clock in Dublin is a little after 12 in Europe and half the day is gone. With time becoming more expensive it is more important that Irish people will be enabled to and will appreciate making an early start at 7 a.m. or 7.45 a.m. so reaching Dublin in time to do a good day's work. Commuter trains for Dublin with better time schedules would attract more people.

We should consider the type of cars run on the Paris underground or in Brussels. They just provide a service with seats that are sometimes not even upholstered and offer mainly standing room. The seats are left for war survivors or people who can show a card stating that they are injured. I was once sitting comfortably in one of those cars in Paris when a man came up and flashed what I thought was an identity card. I thought he was a policeman but what he wanted was a seat. These people get priority. We may not need that but we do want economic transport to get from one place to another, and if the journey takes only 15 or 20 minutes it does not really matter if passengers are seated or standing. We should aim to provide this sort of service to ease congestion in the streets. I hope the Minister will be able to finance CIE in a determined way so that they will not always have to think where they can make a saving. CIE's job is to provide a first class service and while it costs money the important thing is to facilitate people in getting from one place to another in the shortest and most convenient way.

I am particularly keen to see a rail link from the Clontarf area or from the Great Northern Line across the main Dublin/Belfast road and into Dublin Airport because the bus route [1657] from Busaras gives one an alarming and depressing tour of an area of Dublin which is not the most beautiful. In rush hours buses take all back streets and this gives the tourist or business visitor a very poor introduction and impression of our capital city. I would prefer to put some of those services underground, before things become too expensive. Perhaps we could have one or two rail tunnels to make the service more viable and more imaginative. They should look closely at the possibility of introducing electric trains at least in the city areas. I do not know what the economics of this would be but I assume it would contribute towards conserving energy to some extent.

I was saddened to see such a large deficit in CIE this year but the public and Members of the House should not take a begrudging view of the situation. Many companies have good years and bad years. We should encourage the workers and the management of CIE to raise their sights and provide a better service. We must take a progressive step and have determined action to ensure that, if at all possible, by greater capital investment we can force CIE out of the present depression and provide a much improved service for the greatest possible number of people.

I wish the Minister and the board every success in this work and I hope they find it possible to make an early decision regarding the transport of our beef to Britain and Europe. I do not know whether the B + I service comes under the present Bill but they should provide a new cattle ship for both live cattle and container traffic so as to ensure that our main export will have adequate transport facilities available. There is no point in trying to produce any commodity unless we can move it out quickly and economically.

I do not know the present position in the European Transport Commission or when we can expect to get some funds from them. I am glad our canal system is preserved and that we shall be able to use it in the not-too-distant future to both economic and social advantage from the tourist [1658] viewpoint. If some economist in CIE suggests closing further branch lines or sections of the permanent way I ask the Minister, if that kind of proposal arises, if it is necessary to abandon the line, at least to leave the permanent way there for a number of years so that we shall not repeat the daft decision regarding the Harcourt Street line which most people now admit it was a mistake to close. Let us profit from the mistakes of the past. I wish the transport service every success in the future.

Mr. Callanan: Information on John Callanan  Zoom on John Callanan  I do not believe it is possible for CIE to become a paying proposition. I agree with the previous speaker that we should not give the impression to CIE that they are just moving along being subsidised and that they should not develop or expand. I believe CIE could do a great deal that would probably improve the position. The idea is to get as many people and as much goods from road to railway but you cannot force people to travel or send goods by rail. You can only entice them to do so. Anything CIE could do in that regard would be worth doing. CIE—and this is what annoys me—have a proposal which they did not call rationalisation but they called it CIE's proposal for railway development. There is a big map at the back of this paper which gives a supposed picture of future rationalisation. As Deputy Hussey has said, whenever there is trouble in a company it never occurs at the top—it is always at the bottom. Nine times out of ten, when rationalisation takes place we find that we begin to lose more money and that we get a worse service.

On this map are shown proposals for major developments and some minor ones. I come from an area which Deputy Hussey mentioned. The only major development I see scheduled for the west of Ireland is at Claremorris and Athlone. Then there is mention of Tullamore, Portlaoise, Roscrea, Thurles, up to Clarecastle and Galway city. We have a major station in Ballinasloe which is to be demoted, with possible redundancies. For the life of me I cannot see how CIE can effect an efficient distribution of goods if they leave a whole vast area in the [1659] west of Ireland without development. We have often heard “To hell or to Connacht”, but CIE appear to have kept above the Shannon all the way and in Ballinasloe we are left with a major area which has to depend on Athlone for distribution.

As I have said, there may be from 13 to 20 redundancies in the goods yard in Ballinasloe. This always happens in rationalisation schemes: the workers always suffer. Deputy Hussey mentioned the station at Loughrea which was supposed to be closed some years ago. The people in the area made representations, local people promised their custom and the station was allowed to remain open. What happened? A little engine was sent down to us. It is only a ten-minute drive by car from Loughrea to an area I have in mind but it took that dud engine half-an-hour to do the trip. Is that the way to keep a line open? I agree there is a good engine there at the moment, but people will not spend half an hour travelling by rail if they can do the same journey in ten minutes by car.

These are the things that stop CIE from going ahead. I agree with the last speaker that the rail services we have are good, even if we have not got super-trains in the west of Ireland. Now, with the increased price for petrol, workers who could use public transport if it were suitable to their comings and goings from work would avail of it instead of using cars. However, the bus services we have in my area run too late to suit the movement of workers and I urge on CIE to make them coincide as nearly as possible with the time workers go to and come from work.

I come to a point raised by Deputy Moore. In CIE there is an excellent basis for a true industrial democracy. All that is required is that the CIE board should have among their members representatives of workers and users. On a number of occasions we have had too much theoretical thinking in CIE which looks all right on paper but falls down in practice. If there were representatives of workers and users on the board we would find more practical application of development [1660] plans and improvements. This also involves the social aspect.

This brings me to the financing of CIE's losses. I do not think this House should be asked to vote £11 million to a State company without having a say in it. I would suggest that a select committee of the House be appointed to go into all aspects of State companies because, as Deputy de Valera has said, we created giants but they have turned back on us.

I was astonished to see the type of pension scheme CIE have. Their pensions are appalling in this day and age. Still on the question of staff, the development document I have been referring to suggests that there is over-staffing. There is talk about reducing the staff in Galway. My experience of the school transport office in Galway is that there is not sufficient staff even to answer a letter. Perhaps staffing is top heavy at the top but when you go down the line we find there are not sufficient staff. I am reminded of school transport in general. Perhaps this is a matter for the Department of Education, and if the Chair says so I will stop.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Denis Francis Jones  Zoom on Denis Francis Jones  It is for the Department of Education.

Mr. Callanan: Information on John Callanan  Zoom on John Callanan  All I will say then is that school transport is being curtailed. Deputies Cronin and Hussey mentioned the transport of beet to factories. I have been associated with the Tuam factory since it was opened. Beet was taken in railway wagons. Then CIE switched to a lorry service, diverting the farmers from rail to road. What they should have done was to provide shorthaul trucks to take the beet the five miles to the local station and then to the factory by rail, 30 miles away. That would have kept the railways going. There are so many heavy trucks on the roads these days that it is impossible for private vehicles to travel. I urge that CIE be asked to make use of the railways, both freight and passenger, more attractive.

The west of Ireland will be adversely affected by the proposed railway development. I protest openly here and ask the Minister to instruct CIE that [1661] their policy should be to develop and to expand even though it costs money to provide a better service. The railways are indispensable. They must not be eliminated. They may not be a paying proposition for some time except in the event of a scarcity of oil.

I was annoyed when I saw the type of development proposed and concerned about the unemployment that would be caused. I do not believe that CIE could be a viable concern but they should be efficient. The money involved is considerable and the impression should not be given to CIE that they can spend as much as they like and then come to the House for funds. There must be supervision over CIE by this House. Those who pay the piper should call the tune. It is a good thing that the House should have full discussion of CIE and other State bodies who expect the taxpayer to subsidise them. We should be careful not to give the impression that CIE should cut back and stop expansion. That might do harm. We may be appalled at the amount of money involved but curtailment of services might cause loss. Expansion is required in CIE and there should be no redundancy.

Mr. Timmons: Information on Eugene Timmons  Zoom on Eugene Timmons  I know the Minister is very anxious to get in to conclude the debate.

Mr. P. Barry: Information on Peter Barry  Zoom on Peter Barry  I am in no hurry.

Mr. Timmons: Information on Eugene Timmons  Zoom on Eugene Timmons  I should like to support my colleagues on this side of the House and in particular the spokesman on Transport and Power, Deputy Barrett. My particular interest is in the city bus services. On the last occasion that the Minister introduced a similar Bill seeking a supplementary sum to meet the mounting debts of CIE I urged that an inquiry should be held into the activities of CIE with reference to the Dublin city bus services. I regret to say that no attempt has been made to do that.

The services in this city are steadily deteriorating. Other speakers have referred to the sequence of strikes during the year that aggravated the situation. I make a strong appeal to the management of CIE whom I [1662] charge with lack of supervisory services in the operation of the city services. As one who travels by bus, I am most familiar with the deficiencies of the system. While it may be excusable to have long queues waiting for buses at rush hours there is no excuse for the fact that it is virtually impossible at times to get a bus during what are regarded as off peak hours while at the same time buses are parked in the centre of the city. I have seen eight to 12 buses parked in O'Connell Street where people were standing in queues. In D'Olier Street buses are parked while people wait for buses. There is a serious deficiency in the service, a serious lack of management control. The Minister should address himself to the question of improving the city bus service. There is a profit element in that service, as the figures prove.

During the summer people are unable to get to seaside resorts and other amenity centres because of insufficiency of transport. Persons have waited up to three-quarters of an hour and have had to abandon hope of getting to the seaside. The management of CIE should have regard to the needs of the community. The people living in housing estates six to nine miles from the city are isolated. The service is infrequent and if a person misses a bus he may have to wait an hour for the next one.

I am particularly concerned with services for persons visiting hospitals situated a distance from the city centre. CIE do not seem to provide special services for them.

There was the unfortunate interunion dispute that gave rise to the regrettable stoppages during the year. I have had personal experience of the grievous hardship caused to the families of busmen. They were deprived of social welfare benefit because the conflict was between one section of workers and another. The families had to rely on a small subvention from home assistance funds. In addition, serious hardship was inflicted on the public.

The Minister should ensure that the Dublin bus services are improved. He should examine in particular the utility of the establishment of a long crossservice [1663] in the city. There are a number of routes that I could name where people at intermediate stops cannot get buses. It might be desirable to have a scheme of dropping people in the city centre and letting them go to other points to get buses to other parts of the city and county.

I hope the Minister will harken to the appeals made to him. The bus fares are high but the people could tolerate that if they had a more efficient service. The whole structure of management seems to fall short of providing that service and there is a failure to take the public into confidence as to any difficulty in providing services.

Minister for Transport and Power (Mr. P. Barry): Information on Peter Barry  Zoom on Peter Barry  I want at the outset to say how very pleased I am at the length of the debate on this Bill to provide extra money for CIE. I am pleased that so many Deputies have contributed to the debate. It shows the interest of the House in the affairs of CIE and a realisation of the value of CIE to the economy. What pleased me particularly was the attitude adopted by a number of Deputies. They adopted a new attitude towards CIE. It was not a question of just criticising CIE and everything they do and of suggesting that they should be made to balance their books and be more efficient.

In this debate I detected an appreciation of the value of CIE. As a number of people seem to realise, to put it no stronger it is unlikely that CIE can be run in a profitable way and, for that reason, Ministers for Transport and Power will have to come back to this House looking for money to subsidise the company unless CIE charge rates that will help balance their expenses against their revenue. Obviously, in that case there would be a level of fares that would be unacceptable to the general paying public, not only for freight rates but for passenger rates in buses and trains. It appears to me that in the future Ministers will have to come to this House for subventions to ameliorate the effect of high fares on the public.

CIE are the largest employer in the [1664] country; their employees number 20,000. They provide rail, bus and freight services, they are involved in the tourist and in the hotel trades and they have many other activities. When I was in Opposition I said that because the organisation is continually exposed to the public too many people criticise CIE. There was an attitude towards the employees that they were putting their hands into our pockets and taking their wages. I never agreed with this view and, since I have come into much closer contact with the company, I disagree even more with it.

We should be proud of the fact that CIE provide so many services in such an efficient way. Many Deputies have paid tribute to the company in this debate. Deputy McDonald compared the train services here with those on the Continent and said CIE were way ahead. Deputy Callanan compared them with British Railways and said our services were superior and Deputy Cronin remarked that the services provided by CIE were much better than those in other parts of Europe.

Unless we are prepared to pay the full economic fares we should not be-grudge the money voted in this House to keep CIE services going. They are an essential inter-connection between many parts of the country and although they cost a considerable amount of money the revenue can be found from two sources only, either from the fare-paying public or through this House. I would not apologise, nor would I presume to do so on behalf of future Ministers for Transport and Power, for coming to the House for money to keep the services going. By and large, the employees of CIE do an exceedingly good job. They are practically operating in a goldfish bowl; any time one of them stops to light a cigarette members of the public see him and, perhaps, they make a complaint. Similarly if a bus is ten minutes late a queue of people are conscious of that fact; if a train is not heated to the standard some people wish they may complain. There is a public awareness of the deficiencies but, equally, I think there is a public awareness of the value, courtesy and efficiency of CIE.

[1665] A number of people have criticised the management of CIE but I think that is rather unfair because they are not answerable to the House. They are individuals who have been employed by the board of directors to do a job and if there is a fault to be found the people who should be criticised are the board of directors who employed them. If there was something wrong with CIE in that regard it would be my duty to fire the board and to install a new one.

CIE have operated under certain constraints and a moral boost was necessary. Part of this was recognised in the last 12 months by the Government when they gave an injection of capital, particularly for the freight side of CIE's operations. CIE have been consistently losing trade to own-account carriers and to private hauliers during the years because the necessary money was not available to modernise and rationalise their activities. Incidentally, I agree with Deputy Callanan's assessment of that awful word “rationalisation”.

For many years CIE were taking individual packages and loading them on to a slow train whose average speed was 25 or 30 mph and unloading them individually when they arrived at their destination. This will be changed when the modernisation of the freight programme is fully under way. There will be unit load carriers, palletisation of goods, high speed trains travelling between fixed areas and the goods will be off-loaded and carried by road to their destinations.

We all recognise the importance and value of the railways and while I am Minister this will remain the position. All of us appreciate the necessity of getting goods from the roads onto the railways. The CIE service must be shown to be as efficient as the road transport service and, in fact, it must be in competition with their own road freight section and private hauliers and the people who use their own transport. CIE must ensure that from the distributor's point of view it is as cheap in terms of time and money as the use of own-account transport. The investment this [1666] year by the Government in the freight section of CIE will pay dividends in the future. The injection of capital was necessary to allow them to compete efficiently with private hauliers and own-account transport.

There were many suggestions from Deputies regarding the more efficient running of CIE. If I do not refer to them individually in my speech, I should like to assure the Deputies that I will bring them to the attention of the board. I will ask them to consider the suggestions and, where practicable, to implement them.

A number of people were surprised when I mentioned that 65 per cent of CIE's expenditure was on wages. I would remind the House that the principal item of the board's expenditure is labour costs. In 1973-74 these costs, including pension and social welfare contributions, amounted to more than £40 million. When we consider that more than 20,000 people are employed by CIE the House will not be too surprised at that figure. It corresponds with 65 per cent of total expenditure and 79 per cent of operating revenue.

People spoke about modernising and rationalising CIE and I mentioned the figure of 65 per cent because I wanted to point out to the House that the huge wages bill was something that would have to be taken into account, as would the number of people employed by the company, in any modernisation or rationalisation scheme. It will not be possible for us merely to say that half of the people must be fired so that the wages bill will be reduced. That is not rationalisation in the true sense; it is only disposing conveniently of people who are in employment. The attitude of CIE is, and will have to remain, that in their modernisation plans for the railways there will be no involuntary redundancy, that where people do not wish to go they will not be forced to do so by the management of CIE.

Deputy Barrett referred to the CIE management not having a dynamic approach to sundries traffic. I am sure he has got a copy of the book Proposals for the Development of the [1667] Railways. This shows that CIE management were concerned about the fact that their sundries traffic was, perhaps, not being handled in the way it should have been and needed a more modern dynamic approach. By proposing this plan to the Government and this plan having been accepted by the Government they showed a realisation that there was something lacking. It is an acknowledgement on the Government's part that what they said was true and that they needed help to put this plan into operation. They are overcoming this problem of the sundries traffic by grouping of sundries traffic in pallets and having it transported in special trains at very much higher speeds than has been the case up to now.

Deputy Barrett also asked about the development of rail commuter services. Earlier this year the Government accepted in principle the recommendation of the Dublin transportation study and the McKinsey Report that these services should be developed to play the maximum possible role in the relief of urban congestion. A special examination is being carried out by CIE, with the help of consultants, arising out of the recommendation of the Dublin transportation study that the existing suburban railway lines should be upgraded and that a feasibility study of a short underground railway network for central Dublin should be undertaken.

Deputy Moore referred to the underground railway and said he did not think it was possible with the population of Dublin city to make this pay. I might, and I am no expert on it, be inclined to agree with Deputy Moore but the fact that there is even a marginal case in Deputy Moore's mind and in the mind of other people would justify the undertaking of a feasibility study to see whether it is possible and let us put it aside until we can get the population level that will allow us to construct this underground railway. It is expected that this examination will be completed early in the new year and will be given to CIE who, no doubt, having done their study [1668] will come to the Government again with suggestions on it.

In the meantime improvements in the existing services are being made where practicable. Last year new cross-city train services were introduced for the morning and evening commuter peaks and services were increased from 43 to 74 per day. This may answer Deputy Timmon's point about the necessity for cross city suburban train services. A new suburban station was opened at the Bayside to cater for the developing housing area at Howth.

Deputy Barrett asked what happened to the plans for the development of the railway. I referred to this when I referred to the £27 million. I think Deputy Barrett has been up but a number of other Deputies may wish to have fuller discussions with CIE on either the overall plan or on the sections relating to their own constituencies or areas. If any Deputy either contacts CIE directly or through me I would be glad and, indeed, I would encourage CIE to see that public representatives, the travelling public, the users of the railway and anybody who is interested should have as much information as possible and know as much as possible about the future development.

Deputy Callanan made the point that the west of Ireland had been ignored and not fully appreciated in this modernisation plan. Modernisation and development work has started and is at various stages of completion at major locations—Cork, Longford, Waterford, Ennis, Ballina and Sligo. Two or three of those are west of the Shannon. Work in connection with the development of 11 other locations is also in hand—Athenry, New Ross, Millstreet, Stranorlar, Letterkenny, Claremorris, Rathmore, Roscommon, Ballinasloe, Castlebar and Westport. A number of those are west of the Shannon. The alteration of a further seven major railheads is expected to commence in 1975. They are Kilkenny, Athlone, Tullamore, Dublin, Mallow, Arklow and Belfast.

Deputy Timmons and a number of other Deputies referred to road passenger services. Many people believe [1669] that the provincial bus services subsidise the Dublin city road services. I am sorry to say that the provincial services are now also in a loss-making situation. In the nine-month period of 1974 they are reckoned to lose £¼ million. The Dublin city bus services from the 1st April, 1973 to 31st March, 1974, lost £967,000— almost £1 million. The loss in the current nine-month period is £3,324,000. The provincial bus services in the 12 months ending 31st March this year made a profit of £289,000 and in the current nine months will have gone into a loss situation of £250,000.

Deputy Geoghegan put his finger on it when he said that if I am dissatisfied the board should be fired instead of criticising the management underneath. That was a valid point. He also referred to CIE becoming more efficient. He spoke about the slow trains carrying sundries goods and other goods instead of fast trains carrying the one type of traffic. It is proposed to replace the slow mixed goods trains by special block trains made up exclusively of one type of traffic, for example, bulk cement, fertilisers and goods of that nature. Those trains will be capable of speeds of 50 miles per hour which is almost double the speed of the existing trains and shunting and detaching of wagons en route will also be eliminated. This specialisation of traffic will enable the railway to work with a freight fleet approximately one-third its present size. Deputy Geoghegan wanted to know also where CIE were actually losing the money. The rail loss was £10,200,000, the Dublin city bus services loss was £3,324,000. I am now speaking of a nine-month period ending the end of this month. The other bus services lost £250,000. Road freight had a loss of £210,000. The canals lost £190,000. Vessels lost £60,000. On their international activities there was a profit of £84,000 and on their catering services a profit of £20,000. That is how the figure of £30,950,000 is arrived at.

Deputy Taylor said there were rumours that CIE time tables were being adjusted. It is customary for [1670] CIE to review time tables at least once a year. That review is taking place at present and it will take into consideration the extent to which there is a demand for existing services and the financial and physical resources available.

Deputy Staunton, Deputy Hussey, Deputy Callanan and Deputy Coogan referred to the poor standard of carriages in the west of Ireland compared with those on the southern route. CIE are limited in their fleet of air-conditioned rolling stock, which was introduced two years ago, and this stock is allocated to trains on routes where their use can be optimised. The remaining rolling stock, built between 1964 and 1968, has been allocated to the Sligo and Westport routes. While it is accepted that this rolling stock suffers by comparison with the air-conditioned units mentioned, it is, nevertheless, superior to the rolling stock used on the non-air-conditioned train sets working on the balance of the southern route. The south, therefore, has the first and third and the west has No. 2.

Deputy Fergus O'Brien asked when steps would be taken by CIE to take advantage of the market opened up by our membership of the EEC. Deputy Callanan and Deputy McDonald also referred to this. I would assure the House that CIE are doing everything possible to increase their participation in this market. They have established agencies in the European Economic Community countries for the development of direct road transport facilities between Ireland and the other EEC countries. They have seven EEC quota licences permitting them to engage in multilateral road freight haulage throughout the member states of the EEC.

Deputy O'Brien and Deputy Staunton raised the question of the transfer of the terminus for trains from the west from Pearse Station to Heuston Station. When replying to a point earlier made by Deputy Timmons I quoted the figures for the increase in the number of cross-city trains. This increase meant congestion at Pearse Station, to such an extent that suburban trains, west of Ireland trains, the Dún Laoghaire boat train were all meeting there at [1671] certain times. None of them was being operated efficiently so CIE took the decision to transfer the west of Ireland trains from Pearse Station to Heuston Station, leaving Pearse Station available for the trains to the south-east and for suburban rail. By providing a more efficient service they would be very anxious—in this they would be encouraged by Dublin Corporation and the Dublin transportation study group—to induce more motorists off the roads and on to the trains by providing a more frequent and faster service.

Deputy Gene Fitzgerald spoke of the need to guard against redundancy in connection with the rail rationalisation plan. I would again like to point out that in July last year the railway staff were given an assurance by CIE that there would be no involuntary redundancies. CIE are, of course, pursuing a full programme in consultation with the trade unions in regard to the implementation of the rationalisation plans.

Deputy Tom Fitzpatrick and a number of other Deputies referred to traffic congestion in Dublin from two points of view: one, the effect it was having on CIE time tables and the other is, of course, the necessity for a more combined approach to the problem of congestion. Deputy Maurice Dockrell also raised this point. This is not a problem solely for CIE or primarily for Dublin Corporation or the Department of Local Government. Its solution needs a coming together of representatives of all these groups. I would see nothing wrong with members of the travelling public being represented on such a study group for the purpose of finding a solution to the problem. Many solutions are suggested which would, perhaps, assist but not necessarily solve the problem.

When looking at this situation we must keep in mind our overall plans. One could follow the suggestion thrown out here by a number of people of having fly-overs, underpasses and underground railways after the pattern of cities in America and on the Continent of Europe. There will probably be some necessity for [1672] some such investment to relieve congestion. The primary user should be the first customer on the roads for a number of reasons. Public transport is more efficient fuelwise than private cars. It can carry more people. It causes less congestion. It relieves local authorities to a certain extent of expenditure on roads to facilitate motorists.

This, of course, is a case of a dog chasing his own tail. If CIE could provide a more efficient transport service cars would not be on the roads but, because they are not providing the service, the cars are on the road. If we could break this chain it is possible we would see some progress. Perhaps bus lanes would be a solution. They were tried a number of years ago on one route in Dublin and there was considerable resistance to them. There was considerable anger on the part of the motoring public. I believe the experiment ended too soon. More time should have been allowed to see whether or not the experiment would work. An Foras Forbartha are at present carrying out a special study of transportation needs in Dublin and I would hope this would be one of the areas that will come up for discussion. Perhaps one way of helping CIE would be to give buses a free run and, by their providing a more efficient service, enticing motorists out of their cars and on to public transport. That would relieve Dublin Corporation of the necessity for any great investment in roadways which will continue to be a burden because of the ever-growing volume of private cars. No matter how many roads one builds there are motorists to fill the roads. In the long term the car will obviously have to be catered for to facilitate those people who want to get from A to B as quickly as possible. However, in the long term, we must place a great deal more faith in our public transport system and ensure that it is as efficient and cheap as possible. We must ensure that a good service is provided so that people will not be tempted to bring their cars out when they know there is a good transport system waiting for them.

Deputy Geoghegan referred to the [1673] changing of the termini from Pearse Station to Heuston Station. I have dealt with that point.

Deputy Gene Fitzgerald and Deputy Callanan made reference to school transport. It may not be appreciated, but it is probably known to many Deputies, that CIE do not operate the school transport system. They act as agents for the Department of Education who decide what buses should run and who should be carried on them, and they pay CIE accordingly. The situation is the same in the case of social welfare beneficiaries. Deputy Dockrell said that in London they occupy seats which should be available to people going to and from work. That cannot happen here because their passes are valid outside peak hours only.

Deputy R.P. Burke spoke of the need for a circular bus route for the north city area. In fact, CIE have made arrangements for a bus route serving Finglas, Ballymun, Santry, Kilmore, Coolock and Kilbarrack. The introduction of this service is awaiting the widening of a road at Coolock lane, so that it can take the bus traffic. After that it will be introduced as soon as possible.

A number of Deputies referred to the bus strike in Dublin during 1974. As the Minister for Labour announced subsequently in the Dáil in answer to a question, Professor Brian Hillery is engaged in a study into the causes of this but has not yet reported to the Minister. I will be very interested to see the results of that study and I will be discussing it with the Minister.

Deputy Crowley, Deputy Cronin and other Deputies referred to CIE not providing sufficient scope for carrying cattle. Deputy Crowley referred to the shipping of cattle. Of course, that is a matter for the B + I. CIE are quite willing to engage in any traffic if they can make a profit and provide a service. In the years 1971-72 and 1972-73, the amount of cattle offered to CIE to be carried dropped by 50 per cent from 206,000 to 110,000. I do not think the House would expect CIE to be on tap to cater for some emergency in the [1674] future. If they got the trade they would be more than willing to engage in it, but the fact is that they have been losing that trade.

Deputy de Valera referred to the day-to-day administration of CIE. Section 16 of the Transport Act, 1950, provides:

The Board shall furnish to the Minister such information as he may from time to time require regarding matters which relate to its activities, other than day-to-day administration...

This is written into the Act. It seems to have been an effort to protect CIE from too much ministerial interference. Under that Act I am not free to tell CIE what buses should be run, what trains should be run, and where they should be run. These are matters of day-to-day administration.

Deputy de Valera also said that CIE's accounts were not subject to audit by the Comptroller and Auditor General. Section 34 of the same Act provides:

The accounts of the Board shall in each year be audited by an auditor or auditors to be appointed annually by the Board with the consent of the Minister.

In that way the Minister has a say in the appointment by the board of the auditors to look into the affairs of CIE. I have the name of the auditors here before me. They are an extremely well-known and very competent firm. For that reason I accepted them.

Deputy O'Connor stressed the need for CIE to look for modern handling equipment and to adopt improved transport systems for goods. This is involved in the development plans for the railways.

Deputy Blaney referred to the inadequate services to and from County Donegal. The lower half of Donegal is served by CIE and the upper half is served by the Londonderry and Lough Swilly Railway Company. The Government have approved a proposal to include in a Supplementary Estimate for my Department provision for a capital grant of £50,000 for the Londonderry and Lough Swilly Railway Company. Because of the troubles in Northern [1675] Ireland, this company have found themselves in a deteriorating financial position and the capital grant is being made for the purpose of assisting them in the renewal of their road passenger fleet.

Almost every Deputy who spoke referred to the necessity for having a Committee of this House to look into the affairs not only of CIE but of all the semi-State bodies. I would be most sympathetic to that point of view. The more transparency there is in the affairs of semi-State bodies the better. I do not mean the uninformed comments you sometimes see in letters to newspapers. I mean transparency with regard to the Members of this House who have to vote money annually for CIE and for other State companies.

A Committee of the House should be able to question the management and directors on their activities and the money they are using. This matter is at present under active consideration by the Department of Finance and the Department of the Public Service. I hope it will come about in a form which will be acceptable to the House and to the semi-State companies involved. I should like to thank the House for the reception they have given this Bill, and to say how much I appreciate the interest Deputies have shown in the affairs of CIE. The suggestions made will be noted by CIE. Probably far more valuable in the long run for the company is the amount of praise, consideration and sympathy extended to CIE for their operations in the future.

Question put and agreed to.

Agreed to take remaining Stages today.


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