Wednesday, 20 May 1992
Dáil Éireann Debate
6. Mr. Spring asked the Minister for Tourism, Transport and Communications if her attention has been drawn to the inadequacy of the existing rolling stock and the effects of same on the quality of service of Iarnród Éireann; and if she will make a statement on the general levels of standards of both the rolling stock and the service provided by the company.
Mrs. Geoghegan-Quinn: The type and quality of rolling stock used on particular rail lines and the extent and quality of rail services are matters falling entirely within the day to day administration of Iarnród Éireann. I have been informed by the chairman of CIE that Iarnród Éireann operate modern air conditioned carriages on their mainline services except when older style carriages are used to cope with exceptional peak demand. The extent and quality of services are kept under continuous review by the company. I understand that Iarnród Éireann expect to take delivery of 17 new railcars during late 1993 and early 1994. These new railcars will enhance the overall quality of the company's commuter rail services In addition, the company are also inviting tenders for the provision of ten new locomotives for use on mainline rail services. The new locomotives will help to further  enhance the quality of mainline services provided by the company.
Mr. Byrne: Would the Minister inform the House whether timber framed carriages are still being used and confirm that, following accidents, they were found to be dangerous and it was recommended that they should be phased out? Can the Minister tell the House what she intends to do and the rate at which these timber framed carriages, in which passengers rather than goods are carried, will be removed in the interest of safety?
Mrs. Geoghegan-Quinn: I do not make decisions in relation to the type and quality of carriage used by CIE; that is a matter for the company themselves and not one in which any Minister should get involved. The company and the board make decisions in relation to the day-to-day management of the company while it is a matter for the Minister and the Government to provide the necessary capital to ensure that the company can deliver the service that the public expect.
Mr. Yates: The Minister has said that it is her job to provide the necessary capital. Will she confirm that Irish Rail in a submission to her during the past 12 months stated that they need to replace 80 locomotives at a cost of £1.5 million each? Is it her intention to make the capital available?
Mr. Yates: The Minister did not even consider answering the question; rather she made a statement in which she outlined what happened in the past. Will she confirm that 80 locomotives require to be replaced at a cost of £1.5 million each? Given her own remark that it is her job to provide the necessary capital, is it the Government's intention to provide it? I am not interested in what happened in the past.
Mrs. Geoghegan-Quinn: The Exchequer subvention for CIE in 1992 amounts to £108 million, £90 million of which is being allocted to Irish Rail. The public capital programme for 1992 provides for capital expenditure of £17.8 million by Irish Rail on new rolling stock——
Mr. McCormack: Unlike myself, it is not necessary for the Minister to use the Galway-Dublin line regularly, but may I ask her if she is aware that there are frequent delays, in relation to journeys on this line, which are a source of frustration for both myself and other constituents? Will the Minister take steps to ensure that capital is provided to upgrade the line before people lose confidence and travel by road between Dublin and Galway and thus create greater hazards on the road?
Mrs. Geoghegan-Quinn: ——but I can say that his constituents and my own have made complaints. Each time a complaint has been made I have asked Iarnród Éireann to investigate it and received a response for the customer which is very important. As the Deputy will be aware, I stated in the House some weeks ago that one of my objectives in reviewing the operation of the Structural Funds was to see if we could strike a balance and what proportion of European Regional Development Fund moneys went to the railways and roads. I would prefer to see public transport being given a higher priority. If public transport is to get the investment that it needs, in particular for mainline rail services, we need support for that kind of development from the European Commission.
Mr. Byrne: Would the Minister agree that while it is the responsibility of Iarnród Éireann to guarantee the safety of passengers carried in inferior rolling stock that this question should be of the utmost importance to her? Will she confirm that timber framed carriages are still  being used on the line which runs between Limerick Junction and Limerick and that the passengers who have to use that service are in danger? Would she also confirm that the policy of borrowing carriages and locomotives from Northern Ireland Railways has been discontinued and it was the cause of some embarrassment when they requested Iarnród Éireann to return those carriages and locomotives? As an independent nation, we should provide proper trains and proper lines and stop borrowing from Northern Ireland Railways.
Mrs. Geoghegan-Quinn: It is important that everyone accepts that our first priority is to guarantee the safety of passengers, so far as Iarnród Éireann are concerned. I would not like anyone to take it from the Deputy's supplementary question that passengers who travel on a particular section of the mainline rail system are in danger. When difficulties arose in the past Iarnród Éireann took immediate corrective action. In response to the second part of the Deputy's question which related to timber framed rail cars I am sorry to tell the Deputy that I do not have that information.
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