Transport (Re-organisation of Córas Iompair Éireann) Bill, 1986 [Seanad]: Second Stage (Resumed).

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

As I stated when speaking before the break for questions, my contribution was by design discursive as the CIE company covered a very wide range of activities in the transport area and even outside it in the State. Perhaps I could go quickly through the Minister's speech — it will not take long — and refer to some points from that speech.

I appreciate very much that the Minister paid a tribute to the planners who originally established CIE. When I want to get to the sources of planning for transport I go back to the Official Report and read what the then Minister, Deputy Seán Lemass, had to say in this regard. I appreciate very much what the Minister said by way of compliment to the planners who are planningin vacuo to a great extent in that a good many decisions were taken during the war and the best of guesses of what would happen after the war were not good enough in many economies, let alone ours.

The Minister touched on the history of CIE and mentioned a time when Dublin buses were paying the bills for the rest of the country. That is long past as indicated by the figures I read into the record of the House before Question Time. He mentioned Erskine Childers. Seán Lemass became Taoiseach and Erskine Childers became President, so the Minsiter, Deputy Mitchell, is allowed a smile when he thinks of his potential future. He criticises the management and marketing assumptions. I am not so sure that the criticism is valid on marketing. I agree with him that the marketing area is important and will be increasingly so. I have the greatest confidence that Mr. Conlon, chairman and chief executive now, will emphasise marketing in the sense of developmental marketing, not in the sense of restricting activities in any way in order to show a neater profit.

The Minister said that he has to get the subsidy right, and that is true. I indicated that I was fully in support of it in so far as any remarks made in this House should try to build up morale in CIE with a view to developing in areas where profits would be made, but I still adhere to my thesis that transparency of accounts is important all around for the House, for CIE themselves, and for the citizens.

The Minister went on to deal with how CIE developed and took over the Dublin United Tramways Company, and did not even taste badly in the mouths of citizens at the time. He referred to the major dieselisation programme. He made the point that CIE are now benefiting by much cheaper fuel. That should be showing in the accounts and in increased efficiency for the same expenditure of money. The long debate that took place about the electrification of the line between Howth and Bray when we were in Government between 1977 and 1981 will always remain with me because Deputy Pádraig Faulkner was then Minister and he was pregnant with this whole electrification programme. He debated the matter privately with members of Government and in Government for a long time and finally came to a decision which has been criticised by the Minister and presumably by the Taoiseach on occasion, but in my opinion by general acclaim it is very successful indeed. I know that people are calculating how much per passenger it is costing. That is inclusive of capital cost. When we are talking of what a passenger on a bus from Dublin to Kildare costs, we should be considering the road cost as well in that one if we are contemplating carrying out a similar exercise.

The Minister and I have referred to the capital programme and I appeal to him that he would do for Cavan what I did for Inchicore when I decided to spend £43 million on the carriages when I was Minister for that short period of ten months.

With regard to the link or interface between CIE and the Departments of Defence, Education and Social Welfare, I have already commented on the education and social welfare schemes. I regard both of them in their own spheres as highly enlightened schemes as is the one for the Department of Defence. Many writers on social welfare throughout both the US and Britain have been on occasion in praise of those enlightened schemes. I am glad to claim credit for them on this side of the House for the most part.

The Galway-Aran ferry service has a subsidy of £0.8 million. There is a problem there of the provision of a proper boat service and I would like the Minister to call the attention of the CIE board to that fact. He visited the island of Inis Mór at some stage, and I hope that the provision is being speeded up.

On looking through his script I see the word "transparency". I am with him on that. Our definitions of "transparancy" may not be the same but I will continue to pursue greater transparancy. Time and time again in the course of the debate this whole idea of competition between national rail and the provisional bus service will come up. It is exercising the minds of everybody connected with it. I am puzzled as to how it will work out. The Minister might well be advised to have another look at it to see his way to maintaining two companies rather than one. Twice during the course of his speech the Minister mentioned the old CIE commitment to the hotels and their being siphoned off to CERT. I would like some transparency there too, because CERT are in receipt of Social Fund moneys. The hotels are being run commercially, I presume. There is, as far as public funding is concerned, a grey area there and I am putting down a question to the Minister for Labour whose responsibility it is, to see how that funding is going.

The amendments from the Seanad were obviously designed to strengthen the parts of the Bill dealing with industrial relations, workers' rights and so on and as such they are welcome. I have a suspicion that they are a sop so far as the trade unions are concerned as they do not consider that the amendment which gave joint directors to the companies and the amendments about industrial relations and so on are adequate.

In relation to the auditing of CIE accounts, I am pleased that, for example, the 1985 accounts have been available now for some weeks. I will decide later as to whether I will put down an amendment about fixing the time for the publication of audited accounts. I am not saying this in reference to CIE, but some of the semi-State companies are very slow in producing accounts. I was waiting for some time for an account from B & I which is a full State company. It is a difficult thing with three companies, or two, if the Minister accepts our amendment, and a central parent board to put the accounts in order very quickly but there is enough expertise to produce the accounts without more than a three month delay. A three month delay would be an optimum if it could be managed. I would like the Minister's views when he is replying.

Iarnród Eireann, Bus Éireann and Bus Átha Cliath are the three suggested names. It is difficult to find names. CIE took off wonderfully. Nowadays nobody would know what one was talking about if one did not use the name Bord na Móna. The ESB was anglicised and stayed that way although I always pay my cheques to An Bord Soláthair Leictreachais. If we could get a good succinct Irish name for the companies it would be desirable. When the late Dr. Andrews was chairman he put on a big push for the Irish language inside of CIE and they deserve credit for their efforts in that regard. There are still people in CIE who are very interested in and have a competence in the Irish language. It has been a tradition in that company for many years.

There is an awkward piece of English in section 8 (1) where it says:

(1) The principal object of the railway company shall be stated in its memorandum of association to be to provide...

Some of the draftspeople should improve on that. I would also like a definition of that part of subsection (3) of the same section which reads:

The principal object of the Dublin bus company shall be stated in its memorandum of association to be to provide a passenger service by road for the city and county of Dublin and contiguous areas and to provide ancillary services...

What exactly do we mean by contiguous areas? Is the Bill meant to cover areas that Dublin city services are covering now or is it the intention to extend the areas that Dublin city services cover?

The amendments made in the Seanad are interesting. Subsections (7), (8) and (9) of section 8 reads:

(7) Where any function of the Board is, by virtue of this Act, a function of a company every provision of any enactment relating to the Board shall, in respect of that function and subject to the provisions of this Act, apply to the company as it applies to the Board.

(8) Each company shall undertake the functions assigned to it by virtue of this Act in compliance with such directions as the Board may give to the company in writing from time to time.

(9) In relation to competition between services of the companies, the companies shall have regard to the overall interest of the Board and in any conflict between the companies the Board shall decide the issue with due regard to its overall interest and the interests of the particular companies concerned.

I can see the purpose of those provisions. It was to meet some of the criticism of the two companies idea, and the question of competition and its possible deleterious effects. I would be afraid that the board would become too involved in the minutiae of the provincial bus and rail company because their real function is not that at all. They are being given powers in the Bill to settle disputes. They may well end up spending most of their time settling disputes, at least for a number of years if the two-companies idea is put through. Subsection (10) of section 8 reads:

(10) The Board and the companies shall have due regard to the Board's social role and the need to maintain public transport services integrated to the maximum extent possible within the financial resources available to them.

The social role has been accepted by the Minister, by the Fianna Fáil Party and by most Members of this House. For most people, the social role would be what they do in regard to school buses, old age pensioners and others and for the former members of the Defence Forces, the old IRA and so on. It is, as now defined by the Minister, covering the whole area of the subsidy, whatever that is, and we will be pushing for transparency in that regard also.

Section 11(2)(c) relates to the problem solving role of the chairman of the board. It reads:

(c) The Chairman of the Board may, with the consent of the Minister, be appointed on his own nomination to be chairman or a director of the company and may be removed from that office by the Minister;

In section 11 (2) (f) a piece has been added on in the Seanad to the Bill as initiated. The original Bill read:

(f) the company shall, within a period specified by the Board, set up machinery for the purposes of negotiation concerned with the pay and conditions of its staff.

Added on has been:

and to this end consult with and make every reasonable endeavour to reach agreement with the trade unions concerned.

I would have thought that that was self evident philosophy in regard to industrial relations.

Section 11 (3) is also new and states that the directors to be appointed to each company shall include two persons selected from the members of the board appointed under the Worker Participation (State Enterprises) Act, 1977, provided that such persons are willing to accept office. Subsection (4) is also new and it says that a majority of the directors of the railway company and the Irish bus company shall be common to both companies. Both those amendments were designed to meet the fears and the objections, especially from trade unionists, of what would happen when the two companies were welded together if the weld did not take too well. If the Minister accepts my amendment in regard to two companies there will be no need for subsections (3) and (4) although if the Minister wishes to leave them in I will not object.

In regard to section 13 which deals with membership of either House of the Oireachtas, I had a chip on my shoulder about this during the years 1973-77 when in Opposition because Members of the Oireachtas were excluded from various offices. I suppose I have matured a little over the years and I am glad that there is a distinction made between director and employee. There is provision for the seconding of an employee. I do not know if that existed before but it is an advance and I commend the Minister for including it.

Section 14 (5) says that every person who, immediately before the vesting day, is an officer or servant of the board shall not, while in the service of the board or a company, as the case may be, receive a lesser scale of pay or be brought to less beneficial conditions of service than the scale of pay to which he was entitled and the conditions of service to which he was subject immediately before the vesting day. The information I got in regard to the specific case I mentioned in relation to the switch from Westland Row to the North Wall is an instance of where conditions of service immediately before vesting day will be worse than before. The same applies to subsection (6) which says that the conditions of service, restrictions, requirements and obligations to which they were subject immediately before the vesting day shall continue to apply and may be exercised or imposed by the board.

I have already spoken about the auditing of accounts. I will listen to the Minister's reply and I will then decide whether to include a period of three months in my amendment. Perhaps it will not be possible to audit the accounts within three months, it can be extended to four months if necessary. Section 25 (1) says that the Minister may, by order, confer on the board such further functions. including functions in relation to the development of the assets of the board, as the Minister thinks proper and specifies in the order. Subsection (2) says that any such order may contain such incidental and supplementary provisions as the Minister thinks necessary or expedient for giving full effect to the order. Subsection (3) says that every order under this section shall be made with the consent of the Minister for Finance. They are fairly wide ranging powers but perhaps on Committee Stage we will be able to tease out the sections.

Section 26 (1) says that the Minister may give to the board such directions in writing as to policy in relation to the functions of the board, the companies, or any of them, as he thinks proper. That is a fairly strong section. Subsection (2) says that the board shall comply and ensure compliance by the companies with every direction under this section. In other words, the Minister has the power to direct the board and the board have the power to direct the companies. Subsection (3) says that a direction under this section shall, if the board so request in writing, be given by the Minister by order.

The whole Bill is connected with the social scene and the definition of the total subsidy is that it is a social one. That being the case, this House decides it and I do not know what directions the Minister will give. However, I am sure the Minister will expand on it.

I support the Minister in his efforts to improve the morale of CIE and to exploit the full potential of the company. We agree that there is great potential in their management and workforce whether in Inchicore, on the buses and trains or working as fitters in garages. I came to that conclusion while studying the calibre of the people taken into it, by specific policies of CIE in the past and by reading their in-house magazines. I realised what good they can do in the community apart altogether from their transport services. When you have that kind of potential, good leadership, good management and high morale great results can be achieved. I know that cynicism is an animal that grows and that many words spoken here in regard to CIE will be treated cynically. However, the cynic has never achieved anything and he or she is well defined as someone who knows the cost of everything and the value of nothing. The House can do something in regard to morale and potential.

I should also like to refer to transparency. I would like a breakdown of all figures. I made the point about leaving certificate pupils who in the past were accustomed to sitting examinations for CIE, I said their employment depended on public competitive examinations. I hope CIE adhere to that arrangement. I will be putting down a substantial amendment with regard to two companies instead of three because of the various difficulties to which I referred and because too heavy a burden will be placed on the board who will be very busy developing the company and, like the conductor of an orchestra, keeping the three companies, or two as the case may be, going and in tune.

I am not complaining about CIE's audited accounts this year. However, I fear that bad habits might develop as has happened in other semi-State bodies and whose accounts when published are out of date. When that is the case people cannot make any useful contribution in regard to improving the operations of a company.

I mentioned policy directives from the Department. I should like to refer also to the European aspect of transport in this country. CIE are the major transport company but we have not got a transport committee of the House. Thanks to MEP, Paddy Lawlor, I get literature from the European Parliament when they speak about transport committees. The House has committees on public expenditure, semi-State bodies and so on and it should certainly also have a committee on transport.

I am sorry that the Dublin Transport Authority is not the one I envisaged because no one from CIE has been appointed to the new board which the Minister announced. Someone should have been involved in the transport scene, especially in Dublin city. However, perhaps we will deal with that another day.

Bhí áthas orm faill a bheith agam páirt a ghlacadh sa díospoíreacht seo agus tá súil agam do n-éireoidh go geal le Córas Iompair Éireann sa todhchaí. Mar a dúirt an tAire féin, bhí sé go maith san am atá thart agus is dócha go bhfuil sé in am feabhas a chur ar staid CIE.

Nuair a bhí mise im' Aire, bhí áthas orm fáilte a chur roimh Airí Iompair na hEorpa, ní amháin Airí as an EC ach Airí as an Phortaingeil, an Spáinn — ní raibh siad san EC ag an am — an Ioruaidh agus, sílim, Ar Fhionlainn. Chuir mé glaoch ar Chathaoirleach CIE ag an am chun a rá leis go raibh sé tábhachtach go mbeadh an traein — bhí traein breá galánta againn ó Bhaile Atha Cliath go dtí Luimneach — in am. Chuir sé sin fearg ar an gCathaoirleach: "Cén fath nach mbeadh sé in am?" A dúirt sé liom — agus bhí. Agus tháinig sé in am churig Luimneach freisin. Cuireadh gliondar croí ormsa mar gheall air mar go raibh na hAirí eile ansin agus ba linne an traein agus ba linne an ócáid. Tá súil agam go seasfaidh CIE leis an chaighdeán sin sa todhchaí.

I would like to give a qualified welcome to this Bill. It has many merits, the main one being that it should bring about a great deal of new and fresh thinking, air and light into the organisation and administration of our public transport services. Many of us have been calling for this for a long time. The McKinsey report focused greater attention on the inadequacies of our public transport system and its inability to meet the needs of modern requirements. I hope this Bill will bring about a vast improvement.

The concept of three companies and a single supervising board is a good idea. It will have the advantage of allowing single-minded pursuit in the marketing area. There should not be any conflict. They could and should complement each other's services. More attention could have been given to this in the past, particularly so in relation to new urban areas which have gone up in the periphery of Dublin over the past ten to 15 years, but unfortunately it was not. Over the past ten to 15 years it would be true to say that we have been generally providing public transport in accordance with the needs that were there in the previous 20 years. I will have to be extremely critical of the slow manner in which CIE responded to modern demands and needs.

I have heard that in recent times, and I welcome this, mainline rail reductions have been brought about by allowing CIE to compete with private enterprise at weekends etc. Why did it take eight or ten years to bring that about? Surely it must have been obvious for years that that was necessary and desirable. I would like to see much more of that kind of development under the heading of the legislation we have before us today. Unless there is a dramatic new appraisal of the way we look at transport techniques in this country within the confines of the new companies we will just go through the performance of setting up three new companies and a parent body and achieve nothing. Surely, we must recognise that we are dealing with vastly different demands from those that prevailed up to now? If we recognise that and the three new boards recognise that and the parent body of CIE also recognise it the general welcome the Bill has received will be well placed.

I would also like to refer briefly to the fact that down through the years, particularly over the last ten years, there has been increased criticism from CIE of the damage done to their markets by private enterprise. This issue was alluded to a couple of occasions today. The public are not interested in how they receive their services provided that those services meet their demands, provided that they are convenient and provided they are not unnecessarily expensive. Because there is competition in the market place CIE and we as politicians recognise that there is a need for change. It has taken a long time to put into operation what was felt for some time to be necessary. We have to accept that in the present climate the subvention still exists and will exist for some time into the future. While the public are glad of the services they are critical of the amount of money which is required to provide the services, be they transport or otherwise. It would be well for the new revamped transport companies to have regard to the fact that in the future there will be competition of one kind or another.

Competition is not going to go away. It is going to be much more perceptive in its interpretation of market damands than previously. For that reason there will always be, regardless of what reorganisations take place, the threat of competition from other areas. Obviously, this will come from private enterprise. For that reason, we must keep in mind that we do have subvention which is going to remain in place for some time. The public are not all that happy about large subventions. Neither should the Government. The public pay for the services by way of their everyday use of the services and by way of subvention but they may well become more critical in the future of the use of their money in that fashion.

I disagree with my colleague across the floor, Deputy Wilson, with regard to the two versus three companies. As I mentioned a moment ago, the provision of these new structures will give greater time and scope and make for greater energy to be devoted to the three separate agencies than would otherwise be the case if we divided CIE up into two companies instead of three as was suggested by Deputy Wilson. They are three separate areas. There are the city bus services, there are the provincial bus services and there are the railway services. There should be no difficulty whatever in having those three services dovetail their efforts to provide a good, sound and reasonably priced transport service to the people of the country.

They can do that in a number of ways. One of the ways they cannot do it is to retire into some kind of a cocoon where they will feel they will be protected from outside forces and can object to any kind of competition. That is the wrong way to go about it. The obvious thing to do is to encourage healthy competition between each other but not to the extent of damaging each other's prospects. They should keep each other on their toes in the market and be aware and alert to market requirements. They can also assist each other by laying on services that will enhance the services offered by the other. It is generally accepted that that was the original proposal.

If they follow that course they can provide a new transport policy for the country which will bring with it public contentment and an awareness of the transport system that never existed. We have all heard stories of the public not wishing to use the public transport system and that in other countries citizens use the public transport system to a greater extent than they do here. Why is that so? I do not think it is because people in those countries are paid more. It is my view that the companies operating in those countries are more sensitive to market needs than CIE have been. The services that the public want are provided by those transport companies.

In the last ten years it has become obvious that the transport services offered to the public, with the exception of the rail service, are totally inadequate to meet the requirements of an expanding population. For that reason the slack is being taken up by private operators. Had the challenge not come from that quarter the company may not have embarked on any change of policy and that would not have been to the benefit of the country. I hope that the reorganisation proposed will result in an improvement in the morale of the workers and an efficiency in the national transport services. There should be an improvement in industrial relations and the division of time by staff should allow for greater accessibility by the workforce to management than under the present system. The company are too large, too cumbersome and too difficult to operate.

A service that satisfied demands some years ago is no longer acceptable. People may have tolerated having to wait at bus stops that did not have shelters some years ago but that is not acceptable today. Some years ago people would walk up to two miles to a centre of population to get a bus but that is not good enough today. Competition has meant that the public are being offered a better service. The public, who are the customers of CIE, should not be expected to wait in cold, windswept and rain washed open spaces without a modicum of comfort for a bus to arrive. The glass shelters erected by the company do not last long and are not suitable. It is important that the company do everything possible to make the passengers who use their services more comfortable. They should be made feel that they are wanted and are part and parcel of what keeps the company going. People in other countries travel in greater comfort than bus passengers here.

I hope the new companies that will be established following the passage of this legislation will respond more positively to the demands of the public. Some time ago I had occasion to make a simple request for an extension of a service to a big centre of population, Leixlip in County Kildare. The demand has been there for that service for many years. I accept that there were technical reasons for not extending this service but it is amazing how technical reasons can be overcome elsewhere. Finally, it has been decided to carry out a survey to ascertain if the people in the area want an extension of the service. There are 3,000 houses in the area and the nearest bus service is almost two miles away. The nearest rail service is two and a half miles away. The new companies will have to provide a better service for that town. Where towns can prove that there is a demand for a bus service the new companies should give them sympathetic consideration.

I hope that under the new proposals there will be a greater recognition of the role that should be played in the future by the rail service. Questions about the viability of the rail service have been raised and we have heard that the existing services are not as profitable as they should be but it is important to remember that the basic structure is in existence. Other countries have managed to expand their rail services and it is amazing that here we have an awful habit of dismantling services that have been operating efficiently and replacing them with something more modern or better looking. In the urban areas that are not expected to get the electric train service a better and more competitive urban rail service should be provided. I cannot see any reason for the diesel train service not being extended. I am aware of the controversy that went on in regard to the introduction of the DART service on the Bray-Howth line.

Particularly in my area of north Kildare, there is ample scope for the provision of far greater services than exist at present, even within the limitations of the diesel sevices. There are new towns growing and expanding all the time. There are greater demands by the public as to the time at which they want to be at work in the mornings and for later and longer services in the evening. It is up to the rail transport service to provide them with something to meet their requirements, otherwise alternative means will be found and there will be no use in saying afterwards that this is unfair competition. Admittedly, it cannot and will not be provided within the rail service, but it will be provided by somebody who will see the need to fill the market void regarding road services. As I have mentioned on numerous occasions, if it is not done one way it will be done in another, simply because the people do not particularly mind who provides the services so long as they are efficient, reasonably priced and good. With relation to transport services, it is most important that companies involved change with the times. If they do not, events will overtake them and pass them by and after a while existing criteria becomes irrelevant.

I would hope that under this new reorganisation we will see the development of a new way of thinking and a new perception that will involve a much more dramatic response to the needs and demands of the public and that that new thinking will extend to recognition of the fact that unless the public needs are met somebody somewhere else will have the right to fill that void.

I would ask the Minister to use his good offices with CIE to try to have services, particularly bus services, for the area I mentioned, Leixlip in County Kildare, provided as soon as possible. I know that there have been technical reasons for not providing the services, but these were overcome in Cork and other areas so why can they not be overcome in Kildare? I ask the Minister not necessarily to wait until the reorganisation takes place to provide new bus services. I hope that under the new reorganised system trains will appear on schedule, not like the West Clare Railway, particularly in relation to the western suburban line to Maynooth, where it is not at all unusual for a train not to appear, with very few apologies made. That is not the way to operate. The public will not accept that any more. With the division of responsibilities as well as the division of services, I hope we will see a totally different attitude in relation to such matters.

We hope, in the future, under the proposals set out in this legislation, to see three companies operating under a parent body who will be able to give much more of their individual time, both in terms of the company and the management within each company, to the demands and requirements of the public. If that does not happen, the companies will be serving no useful purpose at all. I should hate to think that we might produce three companies three times as cumbersome as previously. When we are introducing this legislation I hope the Minister and the House will ensure, by the various guidelines to be issued, that that will be made quite clear to everybody.

Reorganisation of this company is long overdue and should have come several years ago. It should have come gradually in line with the changing climate and the changing times. The reorganisation will be successful, provided that those responsible remain sensitive to the fact that there will always be changing demands and changing tastes. Transport companies, whether road or rail, must accept that their future and their success or failure will depend entirely on their ability to meet the customers' requirements, at the same time having regard to the fact that they are at all times open to competition from one source or another. The public who pay as subventors on the one hand and as fare paying customers on the other will always be hard to please and rightly so. The person who pays the piper should call the tune. We hope that these new companies will determine the basis for a grand new transport service that will become self reliant and self efficient and that as a result the public will receive a far better service.

I welcome the opportunity of contributing to this very important Bill. It is very comprehensive and important legislation and I believe that it requires a full debate in this House. For many years, CIE have been subjected to much criticism, but over the years they have served the country well in producing an excellent range of services which have been instrumental in creating worthwhile employment in many areas throughout rural Ireland. With the spin-off in purchasing materials, etc., they have spent massive sums of money and for this reason major changes could have far reaching effects. I understand it is estimated that up to 50 per cent of the present subvention to CIE — that would be in excess of £50 million last year — went towards goods and services provided by outside contractors such as tyre manufacturers, caterers, etc. CIE have had many business interests here in one way or another. They have had to build them into viable concerns and these, in turn, have provided excellent employment as a result of the financial input from CIE.

I recently received correspondence from the Irish Transport and General Workers' Union in relation to this Bill. Many excellent points have been made by the union. I was disappointed to be told, not by that union but by many workers attached to CIE, that the union did not have a major input into this very important legislation, especially so since CIE have at this moment over 14,000 workers on their pay roll. Most of these — and I speak with particular emphasis in regard to Kerry — are very concerned. I share their concern. What does the future hold for them? I know the Minister means well but will the present conditions of service they enjoy be maintained? Will employees in the more viable operations have better conditions? Many of the workers have given long years of dedicated service.

This Bill has major consequences for future transport policy. We must do what is best as regards having an effective transport policy. Many CIE workers have expressed their concern regarding the future. CIE are good employers in Tralee. There are 170 people in full time employment. There is also an excellent school transport scheme. There are 41 part-time drivers and over 100 private contractors. CIE workers in Tralee as elsewhere are dedicated, courteous and most efficient. Over the years they have taken a personal pride in their work. The wage bill for Tralee is £1.5 million and the school transport bill is just under £1 million.

Tremendous strides have been made in the mainline service from Tralee to Dublin. I hope this will be maintained if not improved. One cannot help but think that this Bill is based on the McKinsey report under a different heading. The explanatory memorandum states that it is a Bill to implement the Government decision on the re-organisation of CIE as published in the national planBuilding on Reality and provides for CIE being retained as the parent company to three operating subsidiaries to be formed by the board of CIE and registered under the Companies Acts. This Bill sets out the principal objectives of the company and provides for the assignment of staff to them.

It is well known that the Government wish to hive off the school bus scheme to private operators. This is one of the profit making sections of CIE and if this proposal is implemented it will have far-reaching effects for every CIE garage and for the staff involved in the scheme. They are very worried and would like clarification of their position. As the school transport system is a viable proposition it should be retained by CIE. In Tralee the scheme is run by a small number of staff who are very efficient and caring about their work.

Over the past six years CIE have replaced much of their fleet. I understand this entailed an expenditure of over £100 million for 800 buses and 50 new tourist coaches. Unfortunately the tourist season was not a good one but this was a good investment. CIE have played an important role with regard to tourism especially in the Cork and Kerry region. There was always an excellent bus service to meet the trains and ferry people to outlying areas. Will the same facilities be available when this Bill is passed?

CIE provincial rail and bus services should be amalgamated into one company. In that way the present facilities could be guaranteed. If not, competition will set in between both companies and this would mean that the bus company would not co-operate with the rail company.

The Minister stated that the board of CIE will still retain their powers and responsibilities. I hope he will clarify the position regarding the holding company. It is not clear from the Bill what function it will have except that it will be a controlling company.

Like previous speakers I welcome the opportunity to speak on this Bill. The Minister outlined in detail the progress made by CIE since this Government came to power. He outlined the means he has adopted to see that this company are put on a firm footing which will enable them to provide the services required by the State.

Initially CIE were considered to be a thorn in the side of the taxpayer and one which would never be relieved. The economic situation which resulted from what was considered to be bad financial management of the company was such that there were horror headlines about CIE's deficit. I am glad the Minister was able to come to the House and point out the change which has taken place. That is to the credit not only of the Minister but of the board and management of CIE and of all the workers in the company. As the previous speaker pointed out, CIE are substantial employers. For a company to continue their social responsibility and try to meet their economic targets under present financial constraints is a major achievement. The Minister was right to praise CIE.

I have noticed a change of management in the mid-west region where younger people are joining the company. People who work for CIE always give an out-going presentation of themselves and while Deputy Durkan might not be happy with the service I have seen at first hand a great improvement in the quality of the service in the rail, bus and catering areas. The company have moved into the tourist market in the mid-west region. Tourist coaches have been seen to advantage in that region. I regret that the coaches were not manufactured here. I had hoped CIE would place the order with GAC in Shannon. However, this was not to be and the company decided to buy abroad. I appeal to CIE to reconsider their position in the Irish market and set about manufacturing here if that is possible.

I thank Deputies who contributed to the debate. I shall not have time today to reply to all the questions but I hope next week to have an opportunity to reply in detail.

I thank Deputy Wilson for his generous welcome for the Bill and for his support for what we have been trying to do, with some success, for CIE. I want to reiterate a very important message. We have never been slow to criticise CIE in the past but the message that should go out from this house is one of congratulations to CIE and all who work there for the improvements that have taken place in the past few years.

Debate adjourned.