asked the Minister for Transport and Power if he will use existing legislation or introduce new legislation to deal with the very serious road freight service problems in the north-western half of County Donegal.
Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - County Donegal Road Freight Service.
I assume that the Deputy has in mind the withdrawal by the Londonderry and Lough Swilly Railway Company of their service for the collection and delivery of small lots of traffic within the north Donegal area. I am assured, however, by CIE, who took over this service from 3rd June, 1975, at short notice, that their arrangements are working smoothly and that there has been no deterioration in the road freight service in north-west Donegal, which would warrant action under existing road transport legislation, or require the introduction of new legislation.
Is the Minister aware of the twin evils which occur here. First, two transport authorities are now responsible for the road freight services operating heretofore in this area, so that we fall between two stools. Would it not be more efficient if either the Lough Swilly Railway Company or CIE did all the road freight? Secondly—and perhaps this is the greater problem, to which the Minister had not even adverted in his reply—50 workers formerly employed by the Lough Swilly Railway Company are now, due to a bit of juggling between CIE and the Lough Swilly Railway Company, being made redundant. If CIE are going to take up the road freight services of this company, then they should pick up the employment situation as well.
It is necessary to go back a little into history in this connection. The Londonderry and Lough Swilly Railway Company approached me last year and said they were in financial difficulties and were looking for a grant. Because of an EEC directive I could not give them a grant for road freight and I gave them a sum of money which was to be used only for passenger traffic. Then in May they announced they were curtailing their services in north-west Donegal for road freight. CIE went in immediately and established connections to the rail head in Derry to serve areas previously served by the Londonderry and Lough Swilly Railway Company. I understand it is working very efficiently and I do not think there have been any complaints about the way CIE are operating it. CIE went in to provide a service for the traders in the area, to collect and deliver their goods. However, there are not 50 people redundant; the number redundant is about 12 or 13. CIE did not go in and take over trade already being done by another company; the other company pulled out and CIE had to go in. They would have been quite happy not to do it and to leave it to the Londonderry and Lough Swilly Railway Company if they had been willing to continue, but they were not so willing. To ensure that there was a service for the traders in the area CIE went in and provided that service.
If this is a subterfuge to assist the Lough Swilly Railway Company by way of having CIE, which are already a subsidised company, doing the road freight service, I should think it would be better that they would do all the road freight services and retain in employment the 50 people who have been given protective notices. I admit that only 12 of them have been made redundant so far, but they are under protective notice and I can assure the Minister——
A brief question, Deputy.
I want to make the Minister aware, if he is not already aware, that there is grave dissatisfaction amongst the employees and amongst the people who have road freight problems to deal with.
I do not know what the Deputy means by saying this is a subterfuge to get CIE to take over the trade. That is not so. CIE were quite willing to allow the Lough Swilly Railway Company to provide the service in North West Donegal but that company pulled out of providing it and CIE are now providing the service in their place.
Is the Minister not saying that under EEC regulations he is not permitted to subsidise the Lough Swilly Railway Company?
No, I did not say that. I said "road freight".
Yes, in regard to road freight.
Or CIE, for that matter.
But CIE are a subsidised company——
Not for road freight.
This is leading to argument.
——and if they take the worst part of the transport service road freight-wise in Donegal, then they should take it all and not leave the best of it to a company who are not prepared to take the worst which the Minister cannot subsidise.
I cannot subsidise either of them. CIE are not subsidised in their road freight Department. They have been told, since an EEC directive came in on 1st January this year, that their road freight must be profitable and that they must maintain it themselves.
What about employing the redundant workers?
If CIE provide their own service and have adequate personnel to do it in their own staff, I do not think they could do that, but I will speak to them about it.