Transport Bill, 1987: Second Stage (Resumed).

Thursday, 26 November 1987

Dáil Eireann Debate
Vol. 375 No. 9

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

Mr. J. Mitchell: Information on Jim Mitchell  Zoom on Jim Mitchell  When we adjourned I had been talking about the industrial relations problems which have persisted in Dublin Bus as distinct from CIE as a whole. I reiterate my suggestion that an independent party should convene a conference between the management and the trade unions in Dublin Bus with a view to establishing a concordat guaranteeing for some years to come a strike free period. Until there is certainly and confidence in the service, Dublin Bus will not get the passenger numbers it needs to make it profitable. All concerned owe it to the workforce to accept that suggestion and hammer out some agreement that will eliminate these frequent stoppages.

I was talking about Inchicore Works before the Adjournment. Inchicore is near and dear to my heart because not [2077] only do I represent it but I was born and reared there, as were my parents before me. Inchicore Works has, for well over a century, been the respository of many human skills. There is a great risk that these skills will be lost. Already CIE have proposed that there should be several hundred redundancies at Inchicore Works arising, among other things, from the fact that no new coaches will be built beyond the present programme.

I felt for a long time before I became a Minister, and I pressed the issue when I became a Minister, that CIE should be using its property and its many human skills to its advantage and that of the State. This has happened in Aer Lingus which has many subsidiaries such as Air-motive which is now making a lot of money using skills which were already within the organisation; rather than making people redundant it set up new ventures, sometimes jointly with others, and in the process helped to subsidise the aviation side of the company. That is what CIE should have been doing over the decades.

When there was a big boom in office building in the past decade or so CIE should have been in there with Irish Life and others developing the enormous sites at Heuston Station, Connolly Station, Pearse Station and elsewhere, reducing their call on the taxpayer. Perhaps it is inopportunate to talk of those things now because of the slump but there is all the more call on CIE to find profitable ways of using the great skills of its workforce rather than making people redundant. Making people redundant is all too easy an option. Every manager in every State company and everywhere else now measures his success on the extent to which he reduces his workforce. We should stop that.

I would like to see Inchicore Works being the herald of a new philosophy within the CIE group. Why could not Inchicore Works become an enginneering works, perhaps making components for some of the car manufacturers elsewhere in Europe, rather than operating just as a railway engineering works? This is something [2078] that I, as Minister, put to the Chairman and Board of CIE and I know they were looking at it actively. Unfortunately nothing has come of it yet. I would like the Minister to tell the House whether this approach is still being pursued and whether or not there are any prospective developments in relation to Inchicore Works.

Mr. Wilson: Information on John P. Wilson  Zoom on John P. Wilson  I am on the record of the House as being in favour of that.

Mr. J. Mitchell: Information on Jim Mitchell  Zoom on Jim Mitchell  I know the Minister is very much in favour of this. I would like him to tell me if there has been any progress. We have not just a financial crisis here but an unemployment crisis. I take great exception to the national plan because it will cause more unemployment in the public sector. We need jobs, and fast. Here is CIE with these enormous assets in Inchicore and elsewhere. In Inchicore there are skilled people and we are losing them. I urge the Minister to get the IDA involved in finding a joint venture suitable to that plant where there is such a lot of space and such great human skills available.

I also hope, a Leas-Cheann Comhairle, that CIE are still actively pursuing the development of their assets and getting other people to develop assets while paying rent to CIE which would be a means of income. It must be one of the great omissions in the past decades that when things were growing and when there was a boom CIE were not in on the ground floor. If they had been, the financial position of CIE today would be so much better. It is inexplicable that there was not thought given to those ideas in the boom years.

Before I conclude I would like to talk a little about the railways. More than two-thirds of the deficit is accounted for by the railways. The provincial bus service, Bus Éireann, is heading towards profit. Dublin Bus, for all its faults, has greatly reduced its losses. In fact, between 1982 and 1984 what is now Dublin Bus halved its deficit in real terms. The objective in 1984 was that by 1989 that halved deficit would be halved again [2079] so that by that time we would have a quarter of the deficit that existed in 1982. Are we still on target for that? I believe we are. Secondly, it should be said that the Dublin Bus deficit should be reduced and a target set for Dublin Bus to reach profitable status in the next few years. I believe it can be done without pushing up bus fares. Higher bus fares are not the answer. The bus fares are already high.

What are we going to do about the railways? This was considered very much in the context of the national plan of 1984 and of the Government's consideration before that of the McKinsey report. The decision was made by the last Government that the railways should be retained. The McKinsey report pointed out that there was very little room for contracting the railways any more, that there were only two options, to keep them or to close them. To keep them for many years to come will prove nearly as cheap as to close them. Given that the railways employ about 7,000 people, one could say that the decision to keep them is made. No sensible Irish Government could do other than retain them. Apart from employment and financial considerations, there is also the fact that we will never know when we shall need the railways strategically in years to come. However, can we continue with a very high level of subsidy? My answer is that if we can retain the railway deficit at its present level in real terms we should do so. It is not only possible, it is more than possible that the railways can contain the deficit at the present rate or slightly reduce it. The objective I set out was that it should be reduced over a period.

Would the Minister perhaps dwell a little on how he sees the future of the railways? If the railways are to be retained, there is the question of the rolling stock. In Inchicore Works in the next year the carriage building programme will be completed for the present. Does the Minister see any need or possibility in the foreseeable future for a further rolling stock replacement? Will there by any need for engine replacement in the [2080] next few years? Can the Minister assure us that whatever engines need to be replaced will be replaced, so as to ensure the continuity of the railways? Does he see any role for expansion of the railway service in the greater Dublin area and by that I mean, for instance, a greater number of commuter services on lines like the Maynooth line, or does he see a greater number of commuter services from places likes Athlone, Arklow and Dundalk? If so, what will the rolling stock requirements be and will they be met?

A topic that always arises at a time of financial stringency is the safety of the railways. As Minister, I and all my predecessors and the present Minister put safety first. Of course, that is right. It must be said that the record of Irish railways in safety matters is very good. Would the Minister assure us that within the provisions for the railways, the first call is the maintenance of adequate safety standards, both in terms of physical safety provisions — new rails etc., new infrastructure where necessary, upgrading of infrastructure where necessary for safety reasons, safe rolling stock — and in terms of safe procedures. Many of the accidents which have happened, not only in Ireland but elsewhere, happened because of human error, sometimes because of physical defects of equipment or contributed to by such defects, but often because of human error. Would the Minister assure me that the first call out of the provisions will be safety and that included in that is constant attention to safety procedures, safety awareness, safety training and repeat training. Anybody who knows anything about the railways will know that in reports on accidents, and notably in the aftermath of the Chernobyl accident, these aspects were addressed. I call on the Minister to assure the House that safety first continues to be the policy.

One recent development has caused me some concern, which is the rerouting of the Ballina train which carries acrylonitrile from the Dublin docks to Ballina. This subject has been discussed in the House on a number of occassions — the entire safety procedures, the safety [2081] back-up, the very routing of this lethal cargo. The matter was raised with me by a concerned constituent. I wrote to the chairman of CIE on the matter and he wrote back confirming that the train had been rerouted. I put down a parliamentary question on the subject but it was ruled out of order as not being the responsibility of the Minister, which surprised me. I take the opportunity of this debate to ask the Minister to give the fullest possible details for the reasons for this rerouting. Have all the communities and local authorities along the new route been alerted to this change? Have their emergency plans been checked as capable of speedily reacting to and coping with any accident that might occur to this train while carrying this lethal cargo?

I do not wish to cause any public alarm because I am quite sure, knowing the normal way in which these things are attended to, that all due attention has been paid to safety matters, but I should like the Minister to spell it out in the House and alert communities in the neighbourhood of the line on which this cargo now travels of its dangers and to advise them on what to do and what not to do if any emergency should arise. It would be wrong to conclude a debate on the railways and especially on the matter of safety without reiterating that our railways have had a very fine safety record but that there is never any room for complacency. This must always be constantly in our minds.

The accident which occurred at the King's Cross tube station in London highlights again aspects of safety which possibly are neglected in other area systems. We do not have a rail service on anything like the scale of the London underground, but it emphasises the need to check things which are off centre, such as escalators, stairways, entrances and exists, as potential fire and accident hazards.

The overwhelming message which goes out from this House to CIE today is one of congratulation and not criticism. I was a little upset by the degree of criticism in the earlier contributions. CIE have been a whipping horse for far too long and I [2082] too participated in some of that whipping but a great deal of progress has been made by CIE since 1982 and a great deal of the credit for this has to be given to the chairman, board, the management and workforce of CIE. It is very important for morale purposes that everybody within CIE should realise that their achievements have been recognised. It is very demoralising for all those involved in CIE after making all sorts of changes and improvements to find themselves still getting whipped and kicked either in this House in an ill informed way, or on the “Gay Byrne Hour”, or wherever.

Very seldom does the word of praise get the coverage that the word of criticism gets. I ask the Minister and my colleagues on both sides of the House to recognise the achievements of CIE over the past few years which have continued into this year and to say to everyone involved in CIE that they have played a huge part in bringing these achievements about and we thank them for it.

Mr. Dennehy: Information on John Dennehy  Zoom on John Dennehy  As a former employee of a semi-State company for 25 years I welcome the opportunity to speak in this debate. I endorse the final remarks made by the previous speaker in that there has been much criticism of State and semi-State companies, much of it ill-founded. There is a lack of knowledge amongst the public of the restrictions which are placed on these companies. These restrictions can relate to the financial structure of the companies or to the statutory requirements regarding what they may or may not do and the public should be made more aware of these restrictions. The many thousands of employees in this sector have borne the brunt of this criticism and in many cases it has affected morale.

We need to raise the morale of all employees at this time. Recently great initiatives have been taken in the State and semi-State sector and I welcome them. I also welcome the Bill because it continues the enlightened approach in removing some of the shackles and it updates the existing legislation. This Bill deals with the fines which may be [2083] imposed. It is ludicrous that in the battle against vandals one of the fines which may be imposed dates back to 1896. Every former Minister must accept a little bit of the blame for this. There has been some change in the thinking but perhaps this has been brought about by the changing commercial circumstances. As far as State and semi-State companies are concerned, we are coming out of the dark ages.

The Minister welcomed what he described as the smooth changeover in CIE. I welcome this move and it amounted to a very traumatic change for CIE. The changes are geared towards providing a more viable and efficient service for the public who, of course, are the founders and owners of these companies. We need to get the message across to the media and the public that employees in these companies do not want to be associated with lame ducks. I am aware from experience that these employees work at least as hard and are as conscientious as employees in the private sector but they have been shackled in many cases. It is ludicrous that the fine for not paying your fare on a train or a bus is only £2. The State is saying to these companies that they must provide a modern efficient service but at the same time the legislation which is in place is nearly 100 years out of date. We need to change fast and I welcome the changes which the Minister is proposing in this Bill.

I do not want to see change for the sake of change. We can only change for the better and at the end of the day we will give the public a better and cheaper service in almost all cases. The main criticism of State and semi-State companies is that they hold monopolies in the services they provide. In nearly all cases, State and semi-State companies are able to provide a good service. I have no ideological hang-ups but, all things being equal, I would opt for services to be provided by State and semi-State companies because it is money which returns to the State. Monopolies exist and they provide a safeguard for workers, but there must be a balance.

[2084] The employees in CIE must be conscious of the fact that they hold a monopoly and they should be extremely reluctant to strike for what the public may regard as trivial matters. I have emphasised previously to my colleagues that there should be almost a total ban on a failure to provide a service for the public. When they do go on strike they reinforce the arguments and strengthen the hand of those who call for privatisation. Therefore, I appeal to all those involved to think very carefully before they withdraw a service. This matter was referred to earlier on and I appeal, as a former semi-State employee, to those involved to think very carefully about withdrawing a service because their actions will be used in the argument put forward for privatisation.

Some of the changes proposed in this Bill are long overdue. It was very unrealistic to allow deficits to mount up and to make no moves to change the position. It is no good saying to the public each year that the deficit is snowballing and is a millstone around the necks of the directors and the officials of the company. In this Bill under the section which deals with write-offs the Minister has made some realistic proposals and I welcome them unreservedly. The financial structures of these companies did not allow them to compete on an equal footing with the private sector.

The question relating to vandalism and the dangers to passengers is one which worries me most in regard to public transport. On the Cork-Dublin service I have seen incidents in which people could have been killed quite easily. I have seen trains stoned only a couple of miles from this House and that seems to happen at only one location on the track between Dublin and Cork. We should have moved on this area much earlier. It is ludicrous that the maximum fine for this was pitched at the level of a fine for somebody stealing an apple or fruit from a shop. In these attacks life and limb are at stake. On many nights I have seen train windows shattered or cracked and stones bouncing off the trains. This is criminal assault. I [2085] ask the Minister to reconsider the suggested fines for these offences and to increase them. We should try to eradicate this problem by realistic fines or imprisonment for these offences.

The fines for vandalism are being reviewed also. I am worried about putting a ceiling on the fines. Any fines should cover at least all costs to the State. It should cover the cost of the damage by vandalism and legal costs which the State may incur. It is not good enough if somebody can cause a couple of thousand pounds' worth of damage to State property and be fined £50. The Minister might review the suggested increases in the penalties. I do not know the legal implications in this regard but a statutory limit exists for different court levels. There should be no upper limit to the penalties for attacking a train or bus with stones or whatever. That happens regularly and there is every possibility of somebody being killed in such incidents as is obvious from the injuries we have seen.

The provision for the selling off of land is a minor change. The Bill gives the board the option of selling land by tender rather than by the present method. A massive amount of money could be brought into the State coffers by getting rid of surplus land and properties, in the case not just of CIE but also of many State and semi-State bodies. CIE have tried to facilitate people by selling off land at the best possible price to enable them to enlarge their gardens and so on. However, I am referring mainly to property located in cities and larger towns. We should examine the holdings of every State company with a view to bringing money into the State coffers. In many instances land used for repair services, shunting or storage of coal or of equipment no longer required is an eyesore or is just locked away from the public. I ask the Minister to carry out a survey of all properties owned by CIE with a view to encouraging them to sell what is not required for their service. Some people may feel that these properties may be needed again in the distant future, but we will deal with that when we get to it. At this time we are short of cash. We [2086] cannot afford to buy land for AnCO for instance — in Cork the last such purchase was for AnCO — but we can push the State bodies out to the green field area, to land which may be held by another State or semi-State body. I ask the Minister to consider that.

In general the thinking behind the Bill will boost the morale of CIE, the board, the managers and everybody down the line. They will see we have a Minister who is interested in making them a viable commercial unit. Until now they have been treated as a lame duck and they may have reacted accordingly. Since the division of the company into three a new air of optimism has prevailed. As in the case of BTE and An Post, people are prepared to boast that they are with this company and are prepared to provide a service and are capable of doing so. As I said earlier, the suggestion of striking could detract from that credibility. I appeal to the company to consider this in any future negotiations and discussions.

Let me emphasise again that I am not happy with the safety aspects particularly on the railways. CIE can do only a certain amount and the Garda have a massive job in this respect. It is of little use to come into this House and sympathise with the bereaved if somebody is killed on our railways because we did not take action in time. The Minister can bring in more punitive fines etc. for offences. The thrust of the debate so far has been encouraging for CIE. Deputy Mitchell moved across the water to King's Cross. We have no similar system here, but DART can introduce new dangers and hazards and we need to update our legislation in that regard.

Let me mention an issue brought up by Deputy Mitchell not directly related to this Bill. I am referring to the national plan. I should like to say to Deputy Mitchell, or anybody else, that if he failed to get such a plan through this House and if he failed to get agreement on it he should not knock the present one because of that. If anybody is worried about the contents of the national plan or the potential benefits or if they think Fianna Fáil are playing the political angle I would ask [2087] them to read Liberty, the official organ of the ITGWU, where the benefits and the potential benefits for the State generally are spelled out. I can safely say that that organisation would not be leaning towards Fianna Fáil in the main. If Deputy Mitchell, or anybody else, wants to use some other Bill to knock the national plan they would need to think again. The Minister is heading down the right road. I thank him for the interest he is taking. I would ask him to consider the two aspects of penalties in two different areas. As a former semi-State employee he has my total support in what he is doing.

Mr. Durkan: Information on Bernard Durkan  Zoom on Bernard Durkan  I do not want to digress from the subject matter under discussion but following the closing comments of the last speaker I should like to say that there are some aspects of the national plan now coming to light which are causing some serious difficulties in this country and in this House and will be seen to cause more as time goes on and a great deal of heart flutters as well.

Mr. Wilson: Information on John P. Wilson  Zoom on John P. Wilson  That is wishful thinking.

Mr. Durkan: Information on Bernard Durkan  Zoom on Bernard Durkan  With reference to the Bill before us I welcome it and the proposal to give effect to the various borrowings which CIE must incur and also the changes in penalties for various offences. I would like to make a few comments in relation to CIE. There have been comments, both positive and negative, in this House today. We should examine the case from both sides. It is true that CIE gave a great service and are an institution to this day in this country. The subdivision of the company into the various companies which now operate bus services in the country, rail services and city services, is proving to be a worthwhile development. As time goes on it will prove even more effective as a means of streamlining a transport company and making sure it meets the requirements of the modern age.

From time to time we hear the various comments put forward by CIE on the one [2088] hand and private transport on the other hand concerning who is right and who is wrong. The argument goes on interminably. That argument stems from whether private transport is endangering the services provided by CIE and as such is endangering jobs within CIE. That is a fair comment from CIE. I should also like to point out that CIE have enjoyed a monopoly situation for a very long time. We have discussed monopolies in this House over the last couple of weeks in relation to other areas. A monopoly situation in any business is not the ideal way in which to provide the consumer, or the customer, with the best possible service, because the customer has nothing with which to compare it. The person who has the monopoly obviously will not be motivated other than by very extreme pressure.

CIE have had a monopoly and it is true that the private transport system which has grown up over the last few years has been illegal. In the eyes of CIE it will be regarded as an illegal development. It developed in response to consumer demands. Services were provided in areas which CIE consistently refused to service for various reasons. Public representatives, of all shades and colours in this House, have from time to time, come forward repeatedly with representations to CIE begging them to provide services in certain areas and they have been met with blank refusals. Yet year after year we vote moneys to a State company, which is right provided that that State company fully recognise that it has responsibilities to the Houses of the Oireachtas and to the people outside, who are the consumers, the taxpayers, who pay for that service. I hope that the enlightenment which has taken place with the subdivision of the companies and the formation of three separate companies within CIE will continue but at an accelerated speed.

The Minister is aware of the reason I have for saying the things I have just said. I could give countless instances in relation to rail services. I can recall over the last ten or 15 years — and I am sure every [2089] other Member of this House can do likewise — making numerous representations for an extension of rail services to areas that required services. These were growing urban areas where there was an obvious need to provide services. People in those communities were crying out, asking and demanding that services be provided on a daily basis and we were given all kinds of excuses as to why it was impossible. Some of the excuses were: there were only single tracks, the services in the various stations were inadequate to meet the requirements in today's age and inadequate to meet the usual safety standards. That was fair enough. After much time and much effort eventually the concession was granted.

In relation to bus services there are several urban areas now where over the last ten or 15 years repeated requests were made for the provision of services by the national transport authority which comes before this House year after year for the approval of the Members of this House for various subventions. Again, I can recall on countless occasions, being met, as have many other public representatives, with various excuses as to why certain things could not be done. For instance, the gradient on particular roads was such as to make it unsafe to operate a double deck bus service. When the request was made for a single deck bus service it was decided that it would not be possible, given the alleged market requirements at the present time, and that a survey would have to be carried out. It took a long time.

The survey obviously gained information which was useful though some of the information sought in the survey was in a rather peculiar way related to the subject under discussion. The survey was carried out after a long time. It was then decided that a minibus service might be considered. If a minibus service was sufficient and proved efficient in another area in the city that was fair enough. People who have waited so long are prepared to wait a while longer. We were prepared to accept that. Suddenly, and as if by magic, it was decided that regardless [2090] of the gradient of the roads in question, regardless of other conditions, it was now possible to provide a single deck bus service. This was amazing.

I admit I do not believe in magic — and there are times that people in politics even believe in miracles — but I find it very difficult to understand how, after a period of five or ten years, a gradient on which it was unsafe to operate buses suddenly became safe. The reason it became safe was that private enterprise got involved. Private enterprise made an application to operate a similar service and suddenly all the barriers disappeared.

If we have a national transport company whose purpose and whose function is to provide a transport service I accept that. I accept also the argument being put forward in certain quarters that there is a social requirement. I have said that in this House. If there is a social requirement to be met so be it, but let us not come up with ridiculous and nonsensical excuses by putting off legitimate requirements, which are recognised and regarded as legitimate requirements, for spurious reasons, when it is well known within a particular company — in this case the National Transport Company — that it is possible and permissible and in every way in order to meet the demands of the request made.

As the Minister is aware I am referring to an area in my own constituency, Confey, in Leixlip. There are about 4,500 houses in that area and the nearest public transport service is two miles away. Admittedly, the terrain is rather difficult in terms of gradient. I am very disappointed that it took so long to provide a service and for CIE to come to a decision that they intended to provide a service. Despite the fact that CIE indicated they were willing to provide a service they obviously did not apply for a licence before a private company had done so. I know that the Minister has already granted a licence to a private operator and that he has before him a request from CIE to provide a similar service. I suggest to the Minister that it might be possible to let the two operations [2091] run side by side. I see no reason why that should not happen. At present, the private operator is providing a service to the nearest point at which CIE pick up passengers. In many cases the passengers — unless the service becomes successful — have to wait half an hour for a connection. As the Minister is aware no provision is made for a round trip or commuter ticket. It should be possible for the Minister, when considering the request before him, to provide the best of both worlds to the people of that area who have waited a long time and suffered much frustration. The services that should be provided there should include a full scheduled service right into the city centre and a shuttle service for the local railway station. This would give the people of that area what they justly deserve.

I want to refer also to safety standards and requirements, an aspect that has been mentioned by a number of other speakers already. Modern telecommunications have gone forward in leaps and bounds during the past 15 to 20 years, and especially during the past five or six years. Deputy Abbott made reference to the use of a telephone system in trains. I see no reason why a full scale radio service or telephone system cannot operate between trains and from one train to a central location. I know that some improvements have been made in that area since the Cherryville disaster. If a train stops on a line somewhere it is farcical that someone should have to go back along the line with a lantern to warn the next train. That should not have to happen in this day and age. Regardless of whether measures have since been taken that should not have been allowed to happen at a time when modern technology is providing so much by way of amenities for use by such companies and operators. The highest possible safety standards in relation to road and rail services should be available to the national transport authority. I ask the Minister to ensure that in future every possible assistance is given to CIE to provide them with the most up to date safety equipment [2092] particularly in relation to telecommunications.

Everybody recognises that instead of producing a commodity now we produce an item which is manufactured to meet consumer requirements. I want to give a message to CIE and to any other company, whether they are in the public or private sector, who are involved in transport. That message is that it would be in their interests to look at what the consumer is now seeking and to remember that where markets and consumer demand have changed, there are ways and means, other than by research, of ensuring that the public will accept a service so long as it is good. The systems Telecom Éireann and An Post are operating now prove that they are entitled to take their place in any arena with any company. They are moving forward with the times and they are capable of competing with any competition, be it from the public or the private sector. If our national transport company do the same thing they will not have to worry about whether they have a monopoly. They will not need to hold a monopoly in order to provide the best possible service. They have many advantages and they should avail of them.

Mr. O'Donoghue: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  One of my main reasons for speaking on this Bill is that many of those who have contributed are from urban centres. I smile when I hear people speak of the difficulties they experience because they live two miles from a bus service. There are many thousands of people in the west of Ireland who live 50, 60, 70 or 80 miles from a bus service. In many cases, they live even further from a train service.

The Explanatory Memorandum to this Bill explains that its purpose, inter alia, is: “to remove the liability of Córas Iompair Éireann from repaying State advances of £44,458,691 and the interest thereon and to empower the Board of CIE to borrow, on a long term basis, up to £45 million, for the purpose of meeting its obligations and carrying out its duties”.

I do not believe that CIE have carried [2093] out their obligations and duties to a whole segment of people living along the west coast of this country. When I was a boy there was a rail service running to the mouth of Valentia Harbour. In about 1959 CIE decided to discontinue that service, leaving in their wake a desolate area. This led to unemployment, emigration, migration and to a lower standard of living. To this day CIE have not carried out their duties and obligations to those people nor to the other people living along the west coast of Ireland. For example, the village of Sneem which this year won the Tidy Towns award and is acknowledged as the most beautiful village in the country has no public transport system. Could one say that old age pensioners and others entitled to free travel passes living in an area such as that are being dealt with fairly by CIE? By and large CIE have carried out their obligations and duties to people living in cities and large urban centres. However, they have neglected their obligations and duties to people living in rural areas.

The privatisation of certain sections of CIE would merely extend the rot further. You cannot privatise the lucrative routes and keep the remainder for the public transport system. It is time for the board of CIE to consider whether they have kept pace with modern standards of transport. On the Continent one purchases a ticket in a machine and there are regular inspections, with severe fines for those who are caught without a ticket. In the light of the budgetary constraints that CIE are experiencing, is it not time to consider this as a viable option? I believe the employees of CIE are as fine a bunch of people as one could wish to meet.

Although in the past the board of CIE have failed in their obligations to people living in rural areas, there are indications of late that they are beginning to take a new approach. Very recently CIE became involved in running a “Show Time Express” to Killarney. For the sum of £30, hundreds upon hundreds of people travelled on CIE and spent the weekend in Killarney. CIE profited from the venture, but in my view CIE have had to be dragged howling into the 20th [2094] century. It is time for CIE to take a more aggressive and innovative approach. It is difficult to understand how a private bus company can operate a fare of £30 to travel to London each week and carry a full load while CIE cannot do the same. Is it not strange that in many semi-public areas a private man can do what the public company cannot do? That inevitably means that there is something wrong at the top — and it is not just in CIE but in other semi-State companies as well. I believe that until such time as the people at the top of these organisations start looking at things in a businesslike way rather than in a pension-like way, we will continue to have the same stagnation that has been experienced in rural Ireland for so many years.

In conclusion, I warn any community which is faced with the prospect of losing its railway line to protest at every possible level because CIE will tell them that they will provide an alternative bus service which will be just as good but they will fail to deliver. I say to those people, “Do not buy the ticket because you will not be carried on the bus”.

Minister for Tourism and Transport (Mr. Wilson): Information on John P. Wilson  Zoom on John P. Wilson  Is mian liom ar dtús mo bhuíochas a ghabháil leis na Teachtaí a labhair sa díospóireacht seo. Failtím roimh an tacaíocht don Bhille a fuaireamar ón dá thaobh anseo sa Teach. Fuaireamar tacaíocht don chathaoirleach, do bhord CIE agus dos na fochomhlachtaí freisin i rith na díospóireachta.

D'aithnigh cuid des na Teachtaí an dul chun cinn atá déanta cheana féin ag CIE. Bhí Teachta anseo is ansiúd, go háirithe an Teachta Cullen a thug fogha faoi CIE agus nár aithnigh an fiúntas atá ag an gcomhlacht i gcúrsaí tráchta agus i gcúrsaí iompair sa tír. Tá a fhios agam nach bhfuil chuile ghné de obair CIE thar moladh beirte; tá a fhios agam go bhfuil dul chun cinn déanta ach go bhfuil cuid mhaith oibre le déanamh agus cuid mhaith le feabhsú acu.

Bhí coinne agam leis an gcathaoirleach agus leis an mbord, agus tá a fhios agam go bhfuil siad ag déanamh iarrachta na [2095] fadhbanna atá acu a réiteach — agus tá fadhbanna acu; i gcomhlacht ilghnéitheach cosúil le CIE, cén fáth nach mbeadh — agus tá súil agam go mbeidh tacaíocht an Tí seo acu nuair a bheidh siad ag iarraidh é sin a dhéanamh.

First, I should like to deal with some points made by Deputy Deasy. He stated categorically that he wanted to see the railway system maintained; indeed, this point was also referred to in the course of the debate by Deputy Mitchell. He recognises the high cost to the Exchequer and I take note of what Deputy Deasy has said in this regard. He mentioned also the Dublin Transport Authority, as did other speakers. I will be introducing a Bill on that subject shortly and we will be able to have a full debate on the matter. Nobody understands better than I the whole story with regard to the Dublin Transport Authority — and Deputy Michell referred to it in the course of the debate. I want to reject one point made by Deputy Deasy when he said the decision on the Dublin Transport Authority was based on vindictiveness. I reject that utterly because there is no foundation whatsoever for that assertion. The decision ws taken purely on the availability or non-availability of financial resources.

In the course of the debate a number of Deputies supported liberalisation in the bus transport area. The House knows very well that the legislation which deals with this goes back to 1942 and that alone indicates the need for revision of the legislation. My Department are working on the legislation and its deficiences and we hope to be able to come to some conclusions in the very near future.

Mr. Deasy: Information on Austin Deasy  Zoom on Austin Deasy  Will that involve issuing private licences for occasional groups?

Mr. Wilson: Information on John P. Wilson  Zoom on John P. Wilson  The study is being made and will conclude shortly. The Government will take decisions based on the recommendations in the study and then the House will be made fully aware of [2096] the matter when the legislation comes before it.

Debate adjourned.

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