Private Members' Business. - 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."

Before the debate was adjourned I was making a comparison between the failure of CIE to adapt, modernise, change and reschedule their whole programme of services with the development of the country over the years. The private bus operators stepped into this vacuum and filled it admirably. Consequently, CIE must now compete. Of course competition is the life of trade, it is good for the consumer and for an efficient and effective service. I have every confidence in the expertise and ability of CIE to adapt to this challenge and to give a good service to the people.

The school bus transport scheme needs a major overhaul. My party's position is very clear in that regard. With the advent of free education in the late sixties Fianna Fáil give a commitment and made a contribution to equality of opportunity for all the people, especially the young. We also made a school transport service available which ensured that the children in the remotest areas would have the same opportunities as those in vast centres of population. Our policy has not changed and we are and will remain committed to that service. There has been much talk over the past few years of a change in that area. Charges for school transport were introduced which put pressure on many families who could not afford them. CIE inspectors should be given greater discretion in regard to day-to-day decisions. We are fortunate that in my area we have excellent officers fronting the scheme. Unfortunately, all matters must be referred to Dublin for a decision as they are operating the system for the Minister for Education and, therefore, are subject to the criteria laid down by the Minister and the Department. However, the people in the areas involved have a better knowledge of the problems than the Department.

In certain cases people are prepared to pay for the school transport system but, on many occasions, there is a great delay in issuing travel passes to the pupils involved. Indeed, sometimes they are not accepted. The regional provincial staff know what is required in any given location and how to get the best value for money. The school transport fleet is rundown and there is an urgent need for major capital investment to ensure that it is updated and modernised to meet the demands of a growing population. Many buses have become obsolete and are not used any more. Instead of providing new buses. CIE provide the same service with fewer buses, leading to more runs being down by individual buses and drivers. The Government have not made funds available for new buses. There is now an inequitable demand on the people who have to use these services. Many children are picked up at 7.30 a.m. to be taken to school and they must wait in its environs for maybe the best part of an hour until it opens. They are not covered by insurance until the school is officially opened. All this creates problems which would be solved by expanding and modernising the fleet.

Catchment areas need to be examined as they were drafted fairly quickly in the late sixties to meet the demand. In many cases no cognisance was taken of the fact that parishes were divided and that sections were added to other areas. The social and geographical structure, the traditional, business, economic development and the direction in which people went to do their business were not taken into account. Pupils from the same parish could go to three different second level schools or to two different national schools because of the way the system operates. This does not suit many families who have gone to the same school for generations. There is not enough flexibility in the scheme in that regard. My constituency in East Galway is long and sprawling and a number of areras around Kiltormer, Menlough, Ballybane, Monivea and Woodford experience these difficulties. These are big parishes and, in some instances, are fairly close to national schools in the next parish. However, they have traditionally gone to their own national schools and transport is not available to them although, in some cases, they are prepared to pay for it.

Compassion is not shown to people who have medical problems. I know of a case where one parent is seriously ill and who cannot provide a service for the children who have to walk a mile or so to be taken to school by bus. This problem could be solved by diverting the bus to an alternative stop to pick up nine or ten children who live on that road.

The top management in Dublin who make the decisions have always looked on the west as a drag on the rail services. The goods station in Athenry has been closed. Tuam, Claremorris, Loughrea, Gort and several other smaller stations have also been closed. The thinking seems to be that Athlone should become the distribution centre for the west. I would like to say that so far as we in the west are concerned. Athlone is in the midlands and we do not want any further downgrading of the services available to the people of the west.

I would like to remind CIE that Galway city is almost 70 miles from the furthest point west in our county. The Aran Islands are still further out. They, too, have to do business. They need a service. We do not want the freight services terminated at Athlone. Should that happen we would find ourselves having to take our goods from there on in by road. There is an excellent railway station in Ballinasloe where there is tremendous potential for expansion and development. Athenry is a very good railway station on a junction. A line which is now seldom used is the Limerick-Sligo line. There is no reason why along with the excellent facilities of Galway railway station we cannot do better business and ensure that the west receives its fair share of opportunities and services from the State. We must ensure that investment in the national transport services is distributed evenly right across the country. The growing towns and cities in the west which is a disadvantaged area will, with assistance and incentives respond and create their own economic development. If the level of State service and investment is any way reasonable and positive we will respond to the challenge. We will help to build our own economy and create opportunities for our people. We have done that over the years and we have survived, but we do not want any further impositions or cutbacks in our efforts to improve our own environment and economy.

There seems to be an attitude in CIE to close down some services that were available heretofore. I am talking about services in the twenties, thirties, forties, fifties, sixties and into the seventies. The company gave various commitments that alternative services would be made available but those alternative services were either not adequate or failed to attract a demand from the consumer in particular areas because they were not programmed and were not up to the level of service which was available previously. For example, the Sligo-Limerick line and the Loughrea branch line closed down. Attymon station was a very important junction in the heart of County Galway. It serviced Loughrea which had its own line and which is still an excellent business and commercial town despite the ravages of the present economic climate and despite the fact that many factories and firms have closed down, in particular Tynagh mines. Given any reasonable effort the town will expand and develop. When that branch line was closed down various commitments were given regarding bus services and alternative road transport services but at the first opportunity those services were taken away.

Loughrea was left in a vacuum. It was left without adequate road transport from CIE. Into that vacuum has come the private bus operator. As I said earlier, CIE failed to acknowledge the demand and then failed to preserve and sustain the alternative services to which they were committed when they closed down the original services. As a result of those decisions they lost the goodwill of the consumer and because of bad scheduling and programming did not hold the consumer. Consequently, when another option became available the consumer took it. One cannot blame the consumer for that and one cannot blame enterprising business people if they avail of an opportunity to provide an adequate service.

CIE must re-examine their position and commitment and ensure that where they provide a service they can sustain, expand and retain it but if they take away one service the alternative must be good enough to satisfy the consumer and sustain and preserve the goodwill and the business of consumers in the area concerned. Attymon Junction, which is my local station, was a very busy junction over the years but very few trains stop there now. Since I entered this House in 1982 I have been trying to persuade CIE to provide a better service in that area. I am concerned that the plans CIE have for that area may denude the people of mid-Galway of services in the future. Attymon Junction serviced south, mid east and mid north Galway.

I want to say to CIE that if they have plans in that direction we do not want to see them progress. Instead we want to see an acknowledgement of the level of support which was given to them over the years in that area. We want practical stopping times geared to getting the maximum number of people in that area to use CIE's services, westwards towards Galway city and eastwards towards Ballinasloe, Athlone and Dublin at the proper times.

CIE have a major role to play in the industrial area. CIE through DART provide a very good service in Dublin, as I have acknowledged earlier in my contribution. The CIE rail service have a good opportunity to carry passengers from Athlone westwards to Galway. Athlone is a very important pivotal point for CIE. It is an area from which they could start to provide a service, passing through Ballinasloe and picking up many of the industrial workers and public servants from Woodlawn, Attymon and Athenry who work in Galway city. CIE should consider this type of service.

The time has come to use smaller trains in areas such as this, smaller buses in country areas and to provide a faster, more efficient and practical service. If we examine this area the demand is there. If the prices are right, CIE will attract the consumer and provide services in areas in which there are no services now. The rail lines run from one area of high population to another. They run through sparsely populated areas in which the private companies may not be operating so there would be a major opportunity for CIE to provide a service to those areas. That would be to CIE's commercial benefit. I would appeal to the management of CIE to consider that type of service in the future. CIE have a role to play in getting such people quickly and safely to their work. The company should direct their energies to providing services in rural areas.

It is time that the company considered using smaller vehicles on rural routes. The bus schedules should be reorganised to ensure that workers in rural areas can avail of public transport to and from work. I am aware that buses leave Galway city at 4.30 p.m. and 5 p.m. with very few passengers but if they waited for another hour they would be able to take people home from work. It is important that the company make every effort to attract more passengers. An early morning service would also be used by workers going to Galway city. We must acknowledge, however, that the private operator has stepped into the vacuum and it would be unfair of CIE to deprive them of the routes they have built up. CIE should not have a monopoly. We must have private development with public service expansion.

The Government pay a lot of money to private operators to provide a school bus service in rural areas and it is only right that it should be a good one. CIE do not have suitable buses for such routes. I note that in 1983 the Department paid £12.5 million to private operators for the school transport service and I presume that figure will rise to about £20 million this year. Some of those operators have expanded and are now competing with CIE on ordinary routes. It was unfair of the company to take some school runs from those private operators in an effort to put pressure on them to abandon profitable routes. I do not welcome that development.

The Department of Education should review the operation of the school bus service and arrange for all buses to stop at the schools the children are attending. At present the buses stop at centres in the towns but some children may have to travel a further mile to the school. Children are refused the use of that service because they are less than three miles from the centre although they may live more than three miles from the school. The maximum number of children should be permitted to avail of the school bus service. I appreciate that those living within one mile of a school should not be taken on the buses but those living any further away should be accommodated. It is possible that the centres used by the buses were chosen because of the amount of parking available but it would be better if the buses were directed to travel to all schools. The children in Loughrea should be brought to the school gates and not let off at the centre. Those children have to walk up to half a mile from the centre to the school. There are two excellent coeducational second level schools in that town and they are well attended. The children using the school bus service to those schools should be let off at the school gate so that they can start their classes warm and dry. I hope the Minister will review the school bus service.

The school bus fleet should be modernised. I was disappointed to learn that work at GAC at Shannon, formerly Bombardier, who were building the CIE buses, is almost at a standstill. That has had a drastic effect on the economic life of my area because many local firms supplied materials to that company. There is a need to replace many buses in the school fleet and there is no reason why the company cannot be asked to build more buses. We have the expertise to build better buses and the Government should provide the money for them.

It would be remiss of me if I did not acknowledge, on behalf of the people in my area, the tremendous co-operation I got when dealing with the general manager of CIE, Mr. Higgins. Since I was elected to the House. I have been trying to have the rail service in my area improved. I was the only public representative who sought an improvement in the east Galway area and I was happy when the threat that hung over the Woodlawn station was removed. The service to that station is very good. The decision by CIE in May to have the 6.25 p.m. train from Galway to Heuston stop at Woodlawn was a good one and we are grateful to the company for that. I am sure a survey in the area will show that the service is being availed of. I hope a similar arrangement can be made in regard to Attymon station on the Galway side. That busy junction station was closed when it lost the Loughrea branchline. However, I am sure the many people who work in local industries would avail of the rail service if that station was reopened. The population figures have been stable for many years and I am sure there is a demand for the service.

I have heard it said that before CIE make drastic decisions such as the closure of stations or lines they invest a lot of capital. These decisions are based on a high capital investment and low demand for service. It is suggested that stations are upgraded, updated and modernised, often to be closed down in subsequent years. I hope that never has been and never will be the situation. I hope capital investment is put into the service and that the company will continue to upgrade and modernise their stations, having them looking attractive, which makes a contribution to the development of tourism and of the whole environment. They are a national company, a semi-State body. Over the years CIE station masters and many of their staff have made a personal contribution to tourism and the development of the country by the way in which stations have been maintained and the high level of services given.

Finally, CIE have the capacity and capability to establish themselves as the national State transport company. Two companies are adequate in order to reorganise CIE into the transport service they should be for the nation, that is, all rail and rural buses should be in one company and the Dublin metropolitan bus services in another. They have the expertise and knowledge and given a positive, practical, vigorous approach and the necessary capital investment, with Government security and initiative, collectively as a semi-State body with State support there is no reason why CIE cannot continue to be the premier transport company in our land.

Cuireann sé áthas orm cur leis an mBille seo, Bille Iompair (Córas Iompair Éireann a Atheagrú), 1986. Is í an chúis leis an áthas sin ná go dtugann sé ócáid dom a rá gur thosnaigh mé mó shaol oibre le Córas Iompair Eireann i gCorcaigh. Chomh maith leis sin, tugann sé an ócáid duinn féachaint siar ar cad a tharla ó bunaíodh CIE, cad atá ag tarlú faoi láthair agus cad atá beartaithe sa Bhille seo.

Gan aon dabht tá go leor eolais le fáil a bhailigh daoine, muintir na gceard cumann, ach go háirithe, an Roinn, agus chuile dhuine nach iad, chun cur leis an mBille seo, chun tuairimí a thabhairt don Aire, don Rialtas, i dtreo an Bhille seo.

The opportunity to speak on this Bill allows me to indicate at the outset that I began my working life with Córas Iompair Éireann. Naturally, even from a distance, I always maintained that affinity, that sense of belonging to the national transport organisation. There are many factors to be considered in this Bill. Principal among those I would consider to be that the action proposed by the Minister will not create the situation, by fragmenting CIE, that we will have a less efficient service — a less efficient social service — and this is an aspect that we must keep in mind. The Minister in his opening speech made reference to CIE being founded during the war period. I do not know what relevance that has except historical relevance, but I am aware that the coming into being of the national transport organisation was to provide a service for all the people.

From the record, from my experience in CIE and from the people who came in from the various companies, at that time the profitable routes were being diligently pursued by the private operators like a race track along some of the roads and, of course, the non-profitable routes were being totally ignored. The Minister and people in Government at that time saw the need to co-ordinate the transport facilities into a national organisation. That was principally the basis on which Córas Iompar Eireann were formed. It would be a retrograde step if the proposal now before us in this Bill were to cause that company to disintegrate into more units than are required to provide a transport service for the people. There are many factors to be considered in this proposal, the principal one of which I have just outlined.

We must also take into account the opinions of the workforce in CIE as expressed by all their trade unions. We have read comments from the trade union movement, especially the unions in CIE, that having considered the Government's legislation on the proposed re-organisation of CIE, they support the ideal of renewal and improvement of CIE services. They go further to say that in their opinion this Bill is not the best approach. In their comments at that time they made reference to section 29, which has now to all intents and purposes disappeared from the Bill, having gone through the Seanad. This Bill was no different from the Industrial Development Authority Bill which I debated here with the Minister in that the negotiating for salaries, pay and conditions was to be taken out of the hands of the trade unions movement and handed over to the Government, or the Minister as nominee of the Government.

It is a welcome sign that our earlier objections to that course of activity by the Government have been upheld and that that Government approach has also been removed from this Bill. The trade unions made a statement to the effect that they were disappointed that the Government, in drafting the Bill, totally ignored the views of the CIE workforce. The views of consultants and reports from various people were sought, but the views of the workforce in the system were not considered by the Government. That indeed is regrettable. The trade union movement indicated that they were critical of the proposal to separate the various sections of CIE into independent organisations under the Companies Act. I acknowledge their fear of that element of the Bill. In the light of the experience of the taxpayers and the workers of, for instance, Irish Shipping, CIE workers see a possible parallel in the splintering off of the national transport authority into various companies under the Companies Act. Therefore, they see a danger of some sections receiving the same treatment as Irish Shipping. Their fears in that direction are well founded.

The separating of the railway and the provincial bus service is not practical, in the opinion of the workers. We on this side of the House also say that. It has been the thrust of our spokesman's contribution that the provincial bus and rail services should form the nucleus of one company, while the Dublin metropolitan area should form the basis of the other. I share the view that it is not practical to divorce the railway and the provincial bus services.

Perhaps people in the Dublin area are not aware of the situation in rural areas. They should at least be made aware of the fact that many of the services in CIE are joint facilities as between rail and bus. I doubt if it is necessary for me to analysis or go into greater detail, except to say that in rural Ireland the transport facilities are shared by rail and bus services. If we have two separate companies, there will be costly duplication and an eventual deterioration of the service to provincial communities. I hope the Minister and the Government will consider that aspect in their proposal to divide the provincial bus and rail services.

I will deal further with the case put forward by the workers. The splitting of CIE into a restructured form will lead to a duplication of many administrative services and will not be to the advantage of the company, its employees or the public. There is a great danger in the proposed plan that subsidiary companies could be liquidated or placed in receivership. A package of retrenchment measures on the passenger rail side can only mean the closure of passenger rail services throughout the State. There were closures of railway lines in the past and it was realised shortly afterwards that an error of judgment had been made. Branch lines are not being utilised to the fullest and there have been reductions in use, threatened closures and closures.

The Cork-Youghal railway line going through east Cork conveyed sugar beet to the factory at Mallow. Youghal is a seaside resort which was always accessible to the people of Cork city who could not go to the sun spots of Spain or Ballybunion because they could not afford it. Those times have come again because of unemployment in the city of Cork. Despite our best efforts to persuade CIE to open that line during the summer they failed to do so. As recently as 24 October 1983, it was indicated to me in a letter that the summer Sunday season excursion trains were withdrawn because of the shortage of rolling stock in the system. Most of the stock was then 20 or 25 years old and, as the fall-out increased because of obsolescence, priority had to be given to the mainline services. Consequently, the lightly-used and seasonal services had to be curtailed.

It was in this context that the Sunday service on the Youghal line had to be withdrawn. To alleviate any inconvenience to the Cork public, bus services were introduced between Cork and Youghal and the support for that service was very encouraging. Let us picture ourselves getting on a train in Cork and going to Youghal for a day at the seaside, as many people in Cork did through the years. I am sure we all accept it would be much easier for a father and mother and a handful of children to get on a train rather than use the bus service. Nevertheless the bus service was well supported. How can we explain to the people of Cork that we could not afford to run the Youghal summer season excursions for want of rolling stock? I doubt that the supply of rolling stock on that line would cost millions of pounds. How is that perceived by the people of that area when we can spend many millions of pounds in other areas?

The last paragraph of that letter said that in the intervening years there has been several meetings with public representatives on that matter but, as the availability of rolling stock continued to decline, the summer Sunday excursions on the Youghal line could not be restored. What have we as public representatives from the Cork area to offer those people who want to avail of the summer season excursion? What sort of guarantee can we give them? What sort of hope can we give them that, by splitting CIE into two separate authorities, the train and the bus service, they will have a better transport service? Where is the rolling stock we had when the new inter-city trains went on track? I am asking these questions because they are very relevant. Let what I am saying be taken as an example for other areas where it is being proposed, considered, or even forcast that there will be rail line closures.

It is well known that a reduction in train services, coupled with no substantial investment in railways, will lead to the demise of the national rail system over a relatively short period. We must guard against that eventuality. I am glad this Bill gives us the opportunity to state the current position and the likelihood of what the future holds.

Limitations on expenditure must, of course, impact on safety provisions in respect of railways. I welcome the express routes. There is a new emphasis on the development of this new efficient service but the question is often asked: at what cost to the existing services and to the rail system? I just pose that question.

CIE is a key factor in our economy because, as well as providing the necessary transport service in its global form, the social content is a very important aspect of the system. They also provide thousands of jobs directly and indirectly. The failure to create a genuine transport policy with full and adequate investment damages national effectiveness; it impairs profitability; it reduces productivity; and it impinges on growth and investment. I have yet to be convinced that the proposal before us in this Bill will go anywhere near creating a transport policy. We have seen enough reports on transport and gained a great deal of experience in this area since 1944 when CIE were set up. It behoves us to use our experience along the lines I have just mentioned — investment, effectiveness, profitability, productivity and growth. They are the key factors in any national transport policy.

It is my honest opinion that the Transport Union, the Irish Congress of Trade Unions and the other unions in CIE have made very valuable submissions but it appears that the Minister has not taken a great deal of notice of what they were saying. One of the fears expressed in one of their contributions was that the social aspect of CIE's operations, both urban and rural, would be neglected and that there would be no regard for the welfare or job security of the workforce. That uncertainty existed in CIE when I began my working life there. In the intervening period, right up to 30 April 1986, we still had not got away from that uncertainty in CIE. I have yet to be convinced that the proposal before us will do just that, and I have grave doubts.

The wording of the Bill conflicts with the promise given by the Minister for Communications to a Congress deputation at a meeting on 29 October 1985, and confirmed subsequently by letter dated 8 November 1985. I hope the Minister's advisers and the Minister of State have taken particular notice of what I have just said and I would appreciate it if the Minister would give a specific reply — not a woolly, washy, diverging reply, but a specific reply to the points I have just raised.

The thrust of our spokesman's contribution on this matter has been for the establishment of two companies rather than three and we are not alone in that view. A communication I have had from the CIE trades union group secretary stated that the Congress amendment to alter the restructuring proposals to two companies rather than three was clearly intended to protect the strength and flexibility of the existing rail and road passenger services. I want to reiterate the necessity to examine the remainder of the country outside Dublin, particularly with the establishment of the Dublin Metropolitan Authority. I shall deal with that matter later and the involvement of the streets commission under the Bill before the House.

We must realise — and the Minister must take note of the fact — that road passenger services throughout the country feed into mainline rail services andvice versa. That co-ordination is one of the country's principal attractions for thousands of passengers. While there are area passenger managers and their responsibilities, there are numerous other examples of district managers, station masters, clerical, supervisory and operational staff attached to rail having a direct involvement in the road passenger services. It is a fact also that in a number of provincial locations control points, booking offices, other office accommodation, rest rooms, waiting rooms nad so on are shared by road passenger and rail operative staff. How does the Minister propose to accommodate that co-ordination in the proposed division? For example, does he intend to provide the same services for the two groups? A similar criterion would apply to the existing maintenance services which is where I have the experience. These maintenance services are provided by the various provincial garages. It is an established fact that much of the savings and cost reductions achieved in recent times at provincial locations have been brought about because of the umbrella negotiation procedures applicable in the relevant districts and so on. Perhaps the Minister has in mind closing down Capwell. I would not agree with that proposal, even if only for the sake of sentiment.

I contend that the present co-ordinated structure is more conducive to the resolution of such problems than having to deal with separate units and groups of staff. If it is the Minister's intention to have outright competition between the two services it would be absolutely fatal to break up CIE since the company have a much better chance of competing as an integrated unit. By that I mean an integrated unit, comprised of the bus services, provincial bus services, rail and road freight remaining as one company. If they are to be divided, has the Minister considered the position with regard to the existing jobs in CIE? The unions have indicated they are prepared, to negotiate a major reorganisation of the existing management structure. Indeed the chairman of CIE, Mr. Paul Conlon, has stated repeatedly that the key issue facing the Government is the recognition of the social role of public transport while ensuring that internal operational efficiencies are maximised. I could not agree more. I have said on a number of occasions that the social aspect of the formulation of CIE and its ongoing transport system are of the utmost importance. The maximisation of operational efficiencies will be welcomed by everybody. It is quite apparent that flexibility exists already in the company in that the road passenger function is well integrated with that of the rail function. Also, the impractabilities and difficulties in separating the two are limitless. Therefore, there is no valid reason that the revised reorganisation structures proposed by the consultants could not be amended to a two-tier subsidiary company structure plus, if wished, a holding company. The transport salaried staff association who cater for management staff have indicated they do not envisage any major difficulty in negotiating a major overhaul of the present management organisation under that umbrella.

The chairman of CIE is on record as saying that CIE are now engaged in an attempt to identify all of their social services and to quantify each in financial terms. I agree wholeheartedly with that endeavour. I am also to understand that the trade unions would contend that, that in accordance with the terms of reference ofBuilding on Reality 1985-87 the two firms of consultants, Messrs Arthur Anderson and Co. and Craig, Gardner, who drew up reports targeting for overall staff reductions of approximately 500 — most of which have already been achieved — were also required not only to make proposals for restructuring but to ensure that the new organisational structures were cost-effective. Everybody in the country accepts there is a clear need for cost-effectiveness in what has been — and is likely to continue to be — this country's only transport semi-State organisation. It should be stressed again that the services of CIE are operating at least as efficiently as they were ten years ago in which period we witnessed the shedding of almost 6,000 jobs. This is a frightening thought.

I mentioned earlier that every public representative is familiar with requests to CIE. I have a file on it from which I took a few random examples. I have already dealt with one of them. The second factor on which I wish to put emphasis is the public whom we serve. This is the part of my contribution where I will become involved, not in a parochial sense but in a constituency sense. I must indicate at this stage that in Cork there is an area manager by the name of Barry Kehoe who is second to none. He goes out of his way to help to provide a service, in most cases a social service. CIE have no trouble with the paying routes so naturally, they will stay. The problems arise for CIE with the non-profit making routes which, as I indicated at the beginning of my contribution, were part and parcel, with the co-ordinating of the transport facilities which existed at the time of the setting up of CIE, of the principal reason for setting up the company. What was being set up was a national organisation funded by subsidy from the Exchequer which would provide the social service, the service that was required along routes that were not paying their way. It has been CIE's attitude in recent years, despite the subsidy, to discontinue the service in parts of rural Ireland because the routes conserned were not paying routes.

I accept that the area manager and his staff in Cork, despite their best intentions and commitment to the people they serve, have run into financial problems in the operation of the services. This proposal should guarantee that in future Barry Kehoe and his staff will be in a better position to provide the service that is required for people who do not have transport of their own. That is the principal factor especially with regard to bus services. When I realised that a bus service was taken off a route outside Cork city, in a place called Kerry Pike, I wrote to Mr. Barry Kehoe, the area manager. He replied:

... I regret of course, that the withdrawal of the service will be a cause of great concern to the parents and children who use the service, but in view of the foregoing I regret having to confirm that it is not proposed to reintroduce the service on the reopening of schools on 1st September.

The reason given in the earlier part of the letter that the bus service was not well supported despite an increase in housing in that area, that it was mainly school children who used the service and that the major factor was that only a very small number of children, normally between ten and 20, travelled from Kerry Pike and that this number was not sufficient to justify a service, especially during peak hours. I quote from that letter to exemplify a situation in which a bus is removed from a route with no more than an expression of regret to the parents and children. When we talk of treating all our children equally, we should mean what we say and not proceed to treat some more equally than others. In fairness to the staff, the service I speak of was reintroduced for a trial period. That is just one example of what happens when CIE, as they are at present constituted, are short of money.

I wish to refer also to a bus service which served people going to Mass on Sundays. It is in the Leemount area of my constituency. I received a letter from Mr. Barry Kehoe on 21 May 1985 which stated:

As you are aware we are under severe financial constraints to ensure that we remain within the Government Subvention for the current year. As a result it has been necessary to effect economies and all services have to be looked at specially. It was found that, particularly on Sunday mornings, the level of support for some services has been declining.

That letter taken in this context alone might not mean much to many people, especially to the Minister and his advisers but what it means is that a service for people who do not have their own transport to get to mass on a Sunday morning has been discontinued. I keep making the point that part of the setting up of CIE was to provide such a service.

Lest anybody think that the cutting back in CIE's services applied totally to rural areas I would remind the House that a bus service was discontinued also in the Montenotte area of Cork. After requests by local public representatives, including myself, the reply we received from Mr. Barry Kehoe was:

It has now been decided to take into account the above area when carrying out a review of our services during the summer months. I can assure you that the points put forward by you will be given every consideration.

This is an old residential area of Cork city high up on the side of a hill but our transport authority, through lack of finance and despite the fears expressed by residents of the area, expect senior citizens in that part of the city to tramp up that hill. CIE could not afford to run a bus up there. In a reply on 8 March 1985 in connection with Parklands Estate, Commons Road, Cork, the Area Manager, Mr. Kehoe, said:

I refer to previous correspondence and I am pleased to inform you that our plans have now been finalised.

An additional service will depart Monday to Friday inclusive from Parklands at 11.30 hours and return from Patrick Street at 14.45 hours.

Parklands is within the city boundary of Cork city and is a new mixed housing development consisting of private and local authority housing, and all CIE could provide is a bus going in the morning at 11.30 and returning at 14.45. I wrote to the area manager again on 30 September and got the following reply:

We have been monitoring the development at Fairhill with a view to an extension of the No. 3 service.

The letter went on:

However I am sure you will appreciate that with the present constraints on the Company's financial resources, additional or improved services must be self-financing and consequently we must be prudent before committing ourselves to additional costs.

This possible extension on Fairhill would be of some benefit to Parklands residents. The lay-out of the new area however is not yet suitable to allow us to consider the extension...

This is a very hilly side of our city with hundreds of houses. Because of financial constraints, CIE are unable to provide a public transport service to that area.

Now, when the people of Cork city and the rest of the country read about the break-up of CIE, their uppermost thought will be whether there is any chance of a bus with the new crowd taking over. To be honest, I could not indicate that the proposals in this Bill would give any hope to those areas. The present CIE organisation are financially restricted in providing a social service for the people who do not have their own transport although they were set up to provide a satisfactory, cost effective transport service for areas that need it as a social service.

There is already a shortage of financial resources in the city of Cork due to the devastation that has taken place there. In fairness to Barry Kehoe and his staff they would, if there were no financial restrictions, provide a service to areas of the city that need it. People in those areas, by virtue of the massive unemployment and the further cutdown in social welfare benefits as from this week, have no hope of paying for transport. All that is available to them is to hire taxis.

Other Ministers are making a hoo-ha about going to Cork — we had one on Friday and another yesterday. Let the Minister or the Minister of State go to Patrick Street to see the unfortunate people who have not got a bus service to Fairhill or Parklands. With their plastic bags of provisions they have to hire taxis — there are not even facilities for shopping in those areas and they must go into the centre of the city to do their shopping. Yet CIE because of financial restrictions, cannot provide a bus for them. They have to hire taxis out of their meagre income and many of them will have that reduced as from this week. There is no point in the Minister saying on the radio that some thousands of people will have more when the people of the constitutency I represent in Cork are not convinced of that.

I indicated my affinity with CIE, having been an apprentice with them. I will not accept statements made in and outside this House to the effect that Fianna Fáil in 1982 decided to adopt the McKinsey report, nor did our Minister in the Department at that time, Deputy John Wilson, so decide. It is my understanding from his predecessor, Deputy Reynolds, that such a decision was not taken despite the fact that it was indicated that Fianna Fáil had intended to adopt the McKinsey report.

The principal element that caused doubt in CIE over the years has been the financial aspect. From my own time there and from ongoing contact with contemporaries, I know that if there is one decision to be made in the breaking-up of CIE it is in regard to eliminating that financial constraint and it will be difficult to do that. If the Government can spend millions of pounds on one location not far from here and have no money to provide a bus to Fairhill, then the Minister is in trouble.

There are four major requirements in regard to public transport: transport planning, budgeting, traffic management and the provision of public transport services. I am of the opinion that the Bill will not meet any of these requirements. If there is to be any hope of success, the Minister should accept the views of those who have said that the dissecting should be in two parts rather than three because it is suicidal to divorce the railways from the bus services. I said earlier I would not let this opportunity go without referring to the problems the other segment of CIE will have, that is, the Dublin Transport Authority.

It is quite obvious that the Dublin Metropolitan Streets Commission Bill will weaken the DTA. In that Bill the Department of the Environment are making another grab for power in so far as transport infrastructure is concerned, all to the detriment of a developing, efficient and profitable transport company running the Dublin city services. It is probably opportune, though undesirable, that the two Bills are before us at the same time.

I should like to refer to the social welfare aspect. If this Bill goes through we will require another Bill to ensure that the facilities introduced by the leader of this party when he was Minister for Social Welfare for our senior citizens — he made available to them free rail and bus services during cetain times — will be continued. Can we be guaranteed that in the new transport set-up the same facilities will be applied to those people? I said earlier there is a danger that the proposals in the Bill to set up bus and rail undertakings, involving the same dog-fights between the two services which culminated in the proposal to set up a national transport authority, will result in our older citizens being deprived of the facilities they now enjoy. The same danger would not exist if we had only two instead of three companies involved in our public transport, namely, a joint rail and provincial bus service on the one hand and a Dublin city service on the other. When I refer to a rail service I include freight and passengers.

Recently the chairman of CIE laid stress on the proposition that rail sundries and road freight were on trial and he is reported to have said that if they had not made a profit by 31 December 1986 the prevailing thinking was that that section would be closed down. In his introductory statement, the Minister did not say those services made a profit. He said they were safe, that they would not be closed down. Throughout my contribution I have emphasised the doubt that permeates CIE. I hope the Minister will indicate to the Dáil unequivocally what is to happen in regard to road freight. In his opening speech he said that CIE rail sundries and road freight services would have been discontinued by 1 January 1986 unless they had been profitable throughout 1984 and 1985. However, he qualified that by saying: "I am glad to report that such is the improvement in these areas that their future is now assured", just a bit short of saying they made a profit.

Another matter I should like the Minister to deal with is staff recruitment. We all know that CIE have had a long tradition of holding a national examination for the recruitment of staff. I hope this national examination is not to be suspended or abolished. If so, is it the intention of the Minister that some similar equitable system of recruitment will replace it? Until recently there was a tradition for the holding of a national examination for recruitment. The idea was that people who had just sat their leaving certificate examination would be recruited, taking into account the academic attainment of the students, who would then go on for clerical training in CIE. It is important that anything which the Dáil has a hand in should be seen to operate recruitment systems above reproach as far as fair competition is concerned. CIE have had a tradition for that. I want the Ministers assurance that that will be continued when this legislation, in amended form I hope, is put through the Oireachtas.

I welcome the opportunity to speak on the reorganisation of CIE. It is not very often that we have an opportunity to discuss the affairs of CIE in this House. One reason for that is that when we try to raise questions to the Minister for Communications or the Minister for Transport as he was in the past, they are usually ruled out of order because they are matters pertaining to CIE. Therefore, I welcome this opportunity to debate CIE and the affairs of the company on this Bill.

I have not been convinced by any of the arguments I have heard from the Government benches or from the Minister as to why there is a need to have three new operating subsidiaries in this reorganisation. The secretary of the trade union groups involved has pointed out clearly that they do not agree that the Government's approach is the best one in this instance. They point out that there was no consultation and that, indeed, the workers were not even asked for their opinions on the legislation. For that reason, it is regrettable that the Minister brought in this Bill without that type of consultation or discussion taking place.

In rural Ireland in particular the role of the provincial bus services and the role of the railway system are compatible because the bus and train timetables can be brought into operation by the one company, and it is only right and fitting that that should remain so. One feature in the west over the years has been the number of railway closures. If what we hear now is true, that Athlone is to be the major distribution centre in the midland and western region, it is quite obvious that buses will be used more and more by CIE. Therefore, we will have a great deal of duplication. The rail and provincial bus companies will be using the same facilities in many instances and in particular the same premises and the same staff. That duplication will not lead to an improved service.

I will not go into all the points made by the group of trade unions because they have been highlighted very clearly by speakers on this side of the House but I would like the Minister, when replying to this debate, to give us some of the reasons he wants to have these three subsidiary companies under the parent company, CIE.

I welcome the fact that we have a Minister for Communications — I am talking about the office of Minister — who has taken over the mantle for all transport policy. It serves as a good umbrella to have all these bodies involved in transport and communications under the one Minister. In the past we have had a Minister for Transport and a Minister for Transport and Power. CIE are a unique body in that they are responsible for the provision of all public transport in the State. We have railways, electric railways now, city bus services provincial bus services, a major port at Rosslare, international tours and the Aran Islands ferry service. CIE are unique in that they have responsibility for the provision of all these services.

One of the very interesting points made by the General Manager, Mr. Higgins, in the engineering magazine which he produced about two years ago was that CIE had a very significant engineering input. Out of the total workforce, 5,500 people are employed directly in the engineering department and they include 120 engineering graduates. The role of CIE as a company who give practical training to apprentices and produce graduates is very important and I congratulate Mr. Higgins and the company on providing that training for apprentices and in particular for young people.

One of the transport systems on which we must congratulate CIE is the DART which has been welcomed very much by the people using it, although at the time it was set up there were many question marks about the amount of money spent on the system. As a Deputy living in the west I would have questioned that amount of money, but I notice in Mr. Higgins's report that the project provided employment for approximately 500 people and that every effort was made to maximise the Irish content of all the components of the project. Computers from Galway were provided in the DART system. However, it is worth pointing out there were over-runs in the costing, we are told due to inflation, the IR£ devaluation and something like £30 million in interest charges. It shows how expensive the whole operation was, but for the people of Dublin it is of great benefit. I hope we will have more such investment in other parts of the country for the railway system.

In the west either railways were closed down or the passenger service was taken off routes like the Sligo to Limerick route. These were mistakes made by CIE. In the past they did not look forward to further development that might take place. I can give one practical example in the west. We had in the person of the late Monsignor Horan one of the greatest pioneers in the west. The fact that he with his committee were able to set about opening Connaught Regional Airport — which was opened by the leader of our party earlier this year — indicates that it is very important that we have a rail service to feed into that airport. Unfortunately, in 1976 the Sligo-Limerick line which had Claremorris, Galway and Tubbercurry on its branches was closed down. It is regrettable that today we have no railway to feed into the airport. One of the points made by the late Monsignor Horan was that he and his committee had to provide an airport in the Connacht region because of the very poor quality of the roads. That could be said also in relation to the need for the railways. The reasons for preserving the Limerick-Sligo line are valid today because of the state of the roads.

The provincial bus services and the railways are interlinked. Recently I was a guest of the Galway-Mayo Regional Development Board and CIE on a visit to south Connemara and south Mayo. I visited the tourist amenities which we were trying to promote in the Galway-Mayo region, travelling on a very comfortable CIE bus. However, because of the state of the roads the driver found it difficult to avoid the pot-holes and everybody on the tour agreed there was an urgent need to improve our road structure if we wanted to develop tourism. We saw how important it is to have a good road structure and a good bus fleet.

It is extraordinary that two Ministers deal with roads and with transport. Local authorities in the past have sought more control over public transport but the opposite seems to be happening. The local authorities can build roads but they have no say as to transport. Because we have two Ministers dealing with roads and transport separately, there will be confusion. The local authorities are providing a service in constructing roads but public transport is to be run as a business. The Minister will agree that CIE have a social role, especially in the west.

The buses with which we are most familiar in rural areas are the school buses. At this stage the Minister should investigate the possibility of carrying out a major overhaul of the buses as many urgently need to be replaced. The same is true of the provincial buses.

On the tour of the Connemara-Mayo region which I mentioned already, I spoke to a number of bus drivers who pointed out that they always required a bus to be on standby. In many cases they had to ring back to Eyre Square for a replacement bus because of the standard of some of the buses and because the state of the roads did not facilitate drivers. A point made by the area manager, who I compliment on the excellent work both he and his staff do in the area, was that there is a problem with the roads and with trying to get the rail service improved. The service from Galway to Dublin has been improved greatly over the past number of years. It takes less time now to get from Galway to Dublin although I would still question the standard of the train service. There seems to be a better train service from Dublin to the south or to the north. Hopefully the service to the west will be improved.

One of the reasons given for discontinuing rail services is that the service is losing money. This was the reason given for discontinuing the service on the Limerick-Claremorris-Sligo line. The solution of replacing a train by a bus has usually failed to save money. Closure of such lines do not save taxpayers' money. CIE give all sorts of figures to make a case for closing the railways, but I do not know of any railway line which saved money when it was closed. The Minister may correct me if I am wrong in that. CIE have not been forward enough to realise that new developments affect the railways. At the moment dangerous chemicals and toxic substances can only be transported safely by rail. To close down a railway line, as happened in Tuam last year, is a very wrong decision.

There is now a great interest in the preservation of railway lines and of the environment. We have now a greater understanding of the social role of the railways and CIE. In Galway we have a very active western preservation society who are arousing great interest in the county by putting a train back on the rails. They are putting a service back on some of the lines from which passenger service had been taken.

Debate adjourned.