Transport (Córas Iompair Éireann and Subsidiary Companies Borrowings) Bill 2012 [Seanad]: Second Stage (Resumed)

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

I am delighted to speak on this Bill. It is technical legislation, but it gives me the opportunity to speak on a wide range of issues connected to CIE and the provision of public transport. The Minister, Deputy Varadkar, and Minister of State, Deputy Kelly, have been clear consistently on trying to return CIE to profitability. There are many issues within CIE that need to be addressed, but there are many positive developments there too.

Bus Éireann is one area where CIE could improve, although it is being challenged by many of the independent transport companies, especially on the Expressway routes. For instance, the buses from both Sligo and Westport to Dublin are not now calling into various villages, such as Carrick Castle in Mayo, and Elphin, Rooskey and Dromod. This has caused considerable concern and anger in many areas. The elderly, those who do not have their own transport, the unemployed who need to collect benefits and shoppers feel they have been left out, notwithstanding that the good work done by the NTA has been cynically undermined by those who are trying to use it for their own political advantage.

Could we reduce the noise level for Deputy Feighan? Can we have respect for the speaker? I do not think they can hear me up there at the back. Deputies should reduce the noise level. Deputy Feighan has the floor.

I thank the Leas-Cheann Comhairle for that protection. Most of them are my own colleagues.

All of them are.

Nothing has changed in the political scene.

There is no sign of Deputy Luke 'Ming' Flanagan.

It is all right. Those opposite I can see; it is the ones behind me I cannot.

They are more dangerous too.

Much of the time when one is trying to explain why the Government cannot subside Expressway routes it seems lost on many who say that we are giving a subvention to CIE and should assert that the buses should stop at every town and village. I am annoyed that this is so but I understand the reasoning behind it. I have worked closely with Bus Éireann, certainly in Sligo, to try to achieve a compromise on the matter. The fact is that if one takes the Bus Éireann service from Sligo to Dublin, as I do on occasion, and which is quite good value, it takes three hours and 30 minutes. There are private licensed operators which leave Sligo, stop in Carrick-on-Shannon and on the by-pass in Longford, effectively picking up 50% or 60% of those travelling, and get to Dublin in less than two hours. CIE faces considerable challenges. Unfortunately, it could lose its customers on those routes, but it also has an obligation to try to deliver for everybody. I say that because CIE was working closely with the NTA and with rural transport to try to fill in the gaps, but sometimes it can be a race to the bottom where the private licensed operators cherry-pick the major population centres.

A major population centre such as Sligo town has as many customers as 40 villages. The position is the same as when people resisted a by-pass for a town where every other town wanted it because one would get to and from Dublin or wherever as quickly as possible. We are working closely with the NTA to get this arrangement sorted out. I have worked closely in Ballinamore, which is a big town which had no public transport links to the major towns. We achieved a compromise in Elphin and Carrick Castle and I am working closely to achieve a compromise so that the service will come off the main road into Dromod, and also in Rooskey. Dromod is not as bad as Rooskey because Dromod is on the Sligo railway line to Dublin, but Rooskey is a difficulty. I still cannot understand why Bus Éireann could not come off the dual carriageway and use the old N4 because the route is shorter and it would only take a minute longer. This issue has caused so much anger. Sometimes it is difficult for us as politicians to get involved to resolve such matters, especially when there are others who are clearly presenting as fact something that is incorrect.

During the Celtic tiger, many who came into the country, especially those from Poland, did not have their own cars and used public transport in Dublin, the major cities and in rural areas. People got on at every bus stop, but now, because of the recession, there is a significant loss of revenue for Bus Éireann and CIE.

I pay tribute to Irish Rail. It provides a great service on the Sligo-Dublin line and many others. It is competitive and it is wonderful. However, sometimes the cost of tickets is exorbitant. If I want to take a train in the morning from Sligo to Dublin, it will cost €35. While I believe the free travel scheme is necessary and it is wonderful that anybody over 65 can avail of it, in some aspects the scheme is being abused. One area I feel it is being abused is where, in a certain town or city, a retired senior civil servant, because he has free travel, takes the Friday train to Heuston Station in Dublin where he has a coffee or a pint, and meets his son, who works for a major firm in Dublin, in the afternoon. Not alone that, the son can travel free with his father as the accompanying passenger back to wherever they go. Not alone are he and the young fellow getting free travel, the poor unfortunate who is paying the full price for his or her travel must stand up so this young man can sit with his father. That is where it is abused. There are some aspects where people must enter into the spirit of the scheme. An accompanying passenger where somebody is disabled or needs a hand is a worthy measure but, in some respects, the scheme is much abused, and this is worth looking into.

I pay tribute to the professionalism of the bus drivers and the train drivers, and all the staff who are courteous. Even on Dublin Bus, people, especially those coming up from the country who do not know where they are going, are shown great courtesy, which I respect. One does not mind asking a bus driver which stop is appropriate, and I appreciate that.

On the extension of rural transport services I believe the National Transport Authority is considering the use of school buses and private operators in the provision of rural transport services because they are a vital link for the elderly and people who need such transport to get into the local town to collect their pensions, to shop or to meet their friends. This is because rural areas have become extremely isolated. Even ten years ago, if seeking directions, one always would have seen someone who was walking along the side of the road. However, there no longer appears to be anyone in rural areas and consequently, people tell me how important are such rural transport services.

While a lot of this money is going towards the provision of a public service, one measure that could be examined is the provision of cycleways and walking paths between towns and villages. For example, if one wished to get from Boyle to Carrick-on-Shannon, which takes ten minutes by road, the adoption of the model used in Germany or the Netherlands, with cycleways along rivers and canals, could get a lot of people out of their cars and off the roads. I acknowledge one would need a certain level of fitness but consideration should be given to connecting all the major villages nationwide and I note this has been sorted out successfully in Dublin.

I wish the Minister well with this Bill and thank him for the work he is doing. One point that should be considered in the context of The Gathering event next year is that only 5% of overseas visitors and 6% of tourism revenue are generated through coach tourism. A huge opportunity exists in this regard and I believe Bus Éireann and many other operators must examine this possibility.

I am pleased to have an opportunity to speak on this Bill today. I regard Deputy Varadkar to be a hard-working Minister with good ideas and good intentions. This is a reasonable effort to deal with an issue that should have been dealt with years ago. At the outset, however, I note the Government has promised reform in many areas, including additional settings on Fridays. While this is not the normal kind of Friday sitting, I do not know the reason for the calling for a quorum by the Minister a few minutes ago. In the time when I was supporting a Government as a backbencher, the onus always was on the Government side to maintain the quorum. I do not believe I ever saw a case in which the Government side called a quorum, as it always was done by the Opposition. This may be a sign of reform or perhaps the Minister was simply testing the mettle of his backbenchers to ascertain whether many of them are present in the House today, whether many of them have gone into hiding from the budget or whatever. Nevertheless, I believe this was strange.

Moreover, the Minister of State, Deputy Kehoe, then arrived in the Chamber to propose to Members that the Dáil would not sit next Monday. While this proposal obviously was accepted by the House, Members were meant to be sitting next Monday and I do not know whether they are coming or going. They received very little notice of the Monday sitting in the first instance and now find they will not sit on that day. People must make accommodation requests and so on, as I did this morning, and consequently, Members must have some reasonable interaction and engagement. I am not a Whip of any group and do not know what is going on.

In what section of the Bill is this?

I was merely making a preamble to my contribution. The Ceann Comhairle is welcome to the House.

Sorry, I thought I was in the wrong-----

No, it was just to note that I was confused about what was happening.

That is grand.

I will return to the Bill now.

Reform is what I look forward to seeing and in the context of reform of the CIE group, it has been obliged to confront a difficult economic position. As with most businesses sectors in the State, the current economic environment is very challenging for public transport providers. One is told the primary cause of the problem is the recession, which has caused a fall of more than 20% in passenger numbers from the peak in 2007. While this has been partially offset by fare increases, revenue is down by more than 11% from the 2008 level. I can tell the Minister that revenue also has fallen by far more, by between 50% and 60%, for many of the private operators. In this case, the public service obligation, PSO, subvention has reduced by 21% between 2008 and 2012 and is due to fall by a further 14% over the next two years. The removal of the fuel rebate is estimated to have cost the group approximately €22 million. However, that has cost all road users, and certainly all transport providers and hauliers, to the same degree. It was announced in this week's budget that a rebate would be introduced for road hauliers but the rate was not indicated. On pressing the Minister last night, it was found that the private road transport providers, that is, private bus companies, will not be included. This rebate should be applied fairly and should be given to everyone who provide such services.

The Minister stated:

While the CIE group reported surpluses in each year [of the boom when we all were going crazy] from 2006 to 2008, 2007 was the only year in the period 2006 to 2011 in which the group generated a surplus when the gains from the disposal of fixed assets were excluded, that is, the sale of property. In the past three years, 2009 to 2011, CIE suffered a total loss of more than €137 million after exceptional items. Clearly, this level of loss cannot be sustained.

I welcome these comments and I also welcome the comments he made publicly some time ago to the effect that this issue must be dealt with and is not a bottomless pit. As I noted earlier, there are many areas for reform. To revert to Coras Iompair Éireann and the various organisations therein, in the main I must compliment its workers and staff, including the outdoor workers on the rail lines and everything else. They have been proud, honourable and courteous and did an honest day's work and provided the services. However, at the top of the organisation, something is rotten in the state of Denmark, which appears to have been a problem across our society. Whatever about those out on the front line in the more challenging areas, the board has much to answer for because its auditors had been warning the board about dangers coming down the line. I question whether the board members listened to that warning. Did everyone get carried away in the three or four years of the boom and think there would be no tomorrow and that CIE also would be affected?

In addition, I have raised a case in the House recently concerning a compulsory purchase order, CPO, that affected a landowner in County Tipperary. While I admit the family concerned approached me late in the day, I believe three alternatives existed for CIE to engage with the aforementioned landowner, rather than placing a compulsory purchase order on his land, locking his gates and locking him out of it. Swaps could have been carried out or other mutual arrangements and three different options existed. I must state that I met a wall of arrogance from officials. They would not meet me, either alone or with the family, and would not engage. I pointed out I was a public representative from south Tipperary, for the time being, but it did not matter as they did not wish to know. This must be dealt with, as such people must be accountable. The State is putting in public money to the group and they must be accountable and must have respect for Members of this House and for others. I was appalled by such a level and I encountered a complete roadblock. I was told the compulsory purchase order would be signed on a certain date, which it was, with the result that the land was cut off from the man. However, it did not make sense because mutual arrangements and swaps could have been entered into for a lot less money and it was a pity that reason could not be seen. One cannot have such a bureaucratic group that will not engage with public representatives and this message must be sent to it loud and clear. However, are they listening or are these people part of the permanent government who consider that no matter who is in charge or elected to this House, they are a greater power? That is how it appears to me. They think the likes of me as a public representative is only here for a while and will be gone after the next election and that they can carry on. This is what has happened to this country in respect of many Departments but it is not good enough and cannot be accepted.

A situation has arisen with Bus Éireann in my native county and I have been contacted by Councillor Sylvia Cooney-Sheehan dozens of times about the Carrick-on-Suir to Dublin service. People are completely unsure as to what will happen to it, as it faces a threat of being reduced from eight to two services per day. If one considers the budget announced this week and all the talk about it being an austerity budget, it was mentioned several times that people could use public transport. However, it is not available and even the parts that are available are being removed. In this context, I refer to the increase in tax rates for cars with low CO2 emissions and the breach of faith with the members of the public, who greeted the original initiative with gusto. They upgraded by buying cleaner and leaner new cars to avail of the low tax, only to experience this complete breach of faith.

The Minister is as aware as I am that the public transport is not there. It is the same with the Clonmel to Dublin route, where there is uncertainty, and but for private operators we would have basically no service. The Cahir and Clogheen to Cork route has had services removed without engagement. The bus stop had a laminated A4 sheet left on it; I have a picture of such a notice at Hopkinsrea in Burncourt indicating that the bus stop would no longer be in use after two weeks. The notice was left fading and blowing in the wind. That is not good enough.

We had the same problem when the new M8 was opened. We fought for years to get a bus to stop in New Inn and we achieved that goal. When the motorway was opened, the bus went along the motorway and the company forgot about the people of New Inn. Before the bus stopped in the village, the people had to travel to Cahir or Cashel to get the bus. We cannot carry on like that.

Railway stations are an untapped resource. I have fond memories of bringing beet into Cahir when there was many staff and much activity but the station is now idle. There is a waiting room if people want to avail of the few services that are left. Entrepreneurs have contacted me over the past number of years with businesses ideally suited to that building but there was no engagement with CIE. Railway stations are lovely, protected listed buildings but they are idle. I commend the station master, who has passed away, and his wife, who still lives there, for the way the property and area has been kept. The buildings are big and accessible but they are left idle, with cobwebs and crows flying through them. That resource is being squandered by the incompetence of management, who did not become swift, thrifty or innovative in their business and thought the Government would continue to pump money into the company.

I am very involved with rural transport. I have not determined if the cuts will be €10 million or €11 million but there is much voluntary engagement in the likes of Ring a Link in Carlow, Kilkenny and south Tipperary. I am chairperson of the south Tipperary working group but there are three. There is a voluntary board, a manager in Mr. Jackie Mealy and bus drivers. They bring pleasure, sustenance and benefit to passengers. I could give quotes from letters, and we launched a book with such letters. One lady said it was like opening the gates of Mountjoy and releasing her because the bus could pick her up at her house and bring her home. She could book the service on-line by giving a time and date. I salute the board members and staff.

Why should these people be worried about funding? We gave more than €10 million to Derry Airport in 2011, although I am not against such funding going to the airport. When the McCarthy report was published, it recommended the closure of rural transport, despite us working tirelessly for it. I commend the people doing the groundwork, including a number of clergy involved in my area. Our county is a showcase, as passenger numbers are large and we provide value for money. We are pruning services that are not cost-effective. Our service should be expanded and we must allow it to flourish.

There is rural transport in most counties but I have been contacted by a lady from just outside Tallaght in Dublin. She availed of a service but that is being discontinued. She is almost in Tallaght - she can see it from where she lives - but now she may as well be in Donegal because there is no service and she must ring a taxi. The Minister would know the geography of Dublin better than me, as I only drive through the area. This is a proud Tipperary woman who has lived in Dublin for 40 years. She fought for a service and got it but now it has been stopped with the stroke of a pen because the group in east Wicklow was not able to oblige her any longer. I would not blame the group as it must rein in its budget too.

There are many questions to be asked of the senior management and board and about their behaviour over the years. We should examine the costs of consultants, fees and junkets over the years, leaving the ordinary people last to get anything. They are first to be hammered.

I offer sympathies on what happened yesterday. I happened to be on the street close to where the incident involving the bus occurred. It is awful as somebody died, which is unfortunate for the person's family and the bus driver and passengers. Bus drivers have many trips to complete every day and they have a safe record, in fairness. Although accidents happen, it was unfortunate for the bus driver, passengers and colleagues.

At the outset I thank Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin spokespersons, as well as Independent Members, for their support of the Bill. I will address a few points raised by Deputies before I sum up. Deputy McConologue raised the issue of competitive tendering and asked if there is a difference between Fine Gael and Labour Ministers on the matter. Like many issues, there is a diversity of views in the Government and they do not always break down along party lines. I was disappointed that having asked the question, Deputy McConologue did not tell us the Fianna Fáil view, and I am interested in knowing the party's view, including what it thinks would be most of benefit to passengers or in the public interest.

I had a chance to examine the Fianna Fáil pre-budget submission, which although not fully costed was fairly detailed. It is interesting to note that in the pre-budget submission, the party proposed to increase spending in a number of areas but did not propose any increase in spending on public transport or CIE. I intend to hold Fianna Fáil to their proposal and will not listen to its Members criticising the level of subvention, as their alternative budget endorsed and supported cuts in subvention. It is there in black and white with Fianna Fáil headed paper. Fianna Fáil also proposed a 7% cut in free travel. We will not cut that scheme and I would like to know how Fianna Fáil would intend to bring about the 7% cut in the amount provided for free travel.

Deputy McConologue was concerned that I may be taking a hands-off approach with public transport and CIE but that is absolutely not the case. I have a very hands-on approach in the area and the CIE financial crisis takes up much of my time and that of the Minister of State and officials. We must bear in mind that CIE and subsidiary companies are not a normal part of the public service; although they provide public as well as commercial services, they are not the same as the Departments of Social Protection, Education and Skills or Health or the Revenue Commissioners. They are a State-owned enterprise with a board and management, so there is a certain separation. Certain logical and legal procedures do not allow a Minister to be as engaged in processes as he or she would be in the Department.

Deputy Ross indicated that this Bill is essentially throwing a lifeline to CIE, which is absolutely correct, and he questioned whether we should do so. It is a legitimate question. He also asked the rhetorical question of what would happen if we did not pass this Bill. There are two options. The first is putting another cash injection of taxpayer money into CIE in 2013; that will not happen as I do not have the money. The alternative is to allow the company to go bust or close down significant parts of the services it provides. That is not something I can countenance either, and that is why the Bill is before us.

The Bill has a number of important elements. It clarifies different measures under which CIE can engage in non-capital borrowing and makes a few changes with regard to the importance of State guarantees. It recognises that although Irish Rail is part of the State, Bus Éireann and Dublin Bus are not. That derives from European law. The legislation sends a clear message to the CIE board, management and staff that if it runs behind this year, the company will have to borrow money. Any deficit will have to be covered through borrowing against assets, interest will be paid on the borrowing and the money must be repaid. There is no possibility of a further cash injection above what has already been given to CIE.

The Bill sends a clear message that shortfalls and overruns will be met by borrowings against the assets of the company. While CIE will not necessarily be required to provide collateral in all cases, borrowings will be made against the company and interest will be charged on any such borrowings. If it ever needed an incentive to implement its business plan, this should be it.

CIE is undergoing major reforms which have only recently commenced. The company has a new corporate structure, with four recently appointed non-executive chairpersons and new board membership. A Government decision was made not to dismiss board members appointed by the previous Administration. I chose not to dismiss board members for this reason, although I have appointed many new members. New financial management, with different systems and people, has been introduced at the company.

Deputy Ross referred to the Baker Tilly report, with which he was heavily involved. I commend the Deputy on his work in that regard and the extent to which he drove the report through committee. However, the report deals with events which took place in 2005 and 2006, which is the best part of a decade ago. Since coming to office, I have done a trawl in my Department to ascertain if many allegations of wrongdoing were made in CIE and if they stacked up. I found there were only a small number of such allegations and none of them stacked up. If anyone has any allegations about wrongdoing or corruption in CIE, I would like to see evidence for them. I cannot stand over an assumption that wrongdoing must be rife and ongoing because it was proved in one instance in 2005. I do not accept this view as there is no evidence that wrongdoing or corruption is rife or ongoing in CIE. If anyone has allegations backed up by evidence, I would like to see them by all means, however. I do not have any reason to believe CIE is not entirely proper in its dealings at management and worker level.

CIE chairpersons were appointed before they went before the committee, although I did not sign off on their orders for appointment or mandates until after the committee hearing in case any matter arose at the meeting that would cause me to change my mind. As it happened, the four chairs did very well in their hearing and their mandates were subsequently signed. Since then, the procedures have changed slightly and any chairperson who goes before a committee must do so before his or her appointment is confirmed and the order for appointment is signed. This procedure has applied, for example, in the cases of the new chairpersons of the Dublin Airport Authority, National Roads Authority, Railway Procurement Agency and port companies and in the reappointment of Mr. Gay Byrne as chairman of the Road Safety Authority. All the individuals in question appeared before a hearing of an Oireachtas committee before they were appointed or reappointed. This issue has, therefore, been addressed.

I thank Deputy Ellis for his support for the Bill and the commitment he expressed towards Dublin Bus in particular. I note his call for greater investment in public transport. All of us would love more investment in public transport and if I had more money, I would invest it in public transport. Sinn Féin recently produced a €7 billion stimulus plan and while the source of funding for the plan is questionable, that is a matter for another day. However, even if one gives the party the benefit of the doubt and accepts that €7 billion could be raised, I note its plan proposed to spend €400 million on a road located mainly in Northern Ireland, €74 million on an airport and €50 million on a port and that no funding was proposed for public transport, either buses or railways. Deputy Ellis should bear this in mind when he calls for more investment in public transport.

We did not outline every project we would fund.

It is interesting the plan managed to refer to money for ports, airports and a road but did not make any reference to public transport.

We could have a listened 1 million projects.

Half of the funding provided under the Government's stimulus plan announced last year is being allocated to transport, albeit not to public transport for various reasons.

Deputy Joan Collins stated the trade unions had co-operated to a point with the necessary changes and reforms in the CIE companies, which is true. She pointed out that she had been in contact with the trade unions before proceeding to read out a statement based largely on what union representatives told her. I wonder how different her statement would have been if she had spoken to taxpayers and passengers to gauge their views on the matter. My job as Minister is to look out for taxpayers and passengers while having regard to the workers. It is a little disappointing for a Deputy to speak, as it were, on behalf of the staff rather than those who use the services. I am aware that Deputy Collins is a strong supporter of improving our labour laws and having a quasi-judicial system of dispute resolution. For this reason, I would be interested in hearing her view on whether Bus Éireann trade unions made a correct decision in refusing to go before the Labour Court.

The Deputy also indicated that the problems in CIE are caused by cuts in the subvention, which is not entirely true. As I noted, the subvention provided to CIE in 2012 was the fifth highest in the history of the State. This was the company's fifth best year ever in terms of money it received from the Government. I wonder how many individuals or groups could say the same about this year. CIE has done very well from subvention and while I accept it is lower here than in other European countries, it should be noted that other countries have much more extensive transport systems. We do not have electrified railways between our cities or underground rail systems. Moreover, in calculating subvention figures, it is important to bear in mind that subvention is paid in two forms here, namely, through the public service obligation grants for services and capital grants. When trade unions and other interest groups are making comparisons they often count the PSO grants and omit capital grants, whereas in most countries only one form of subvention is paid. It is important to compare like with like.

Deputy Catherine Murphy made some good points on land use and transport. She noted correctly, for example, that land was developed in the past on the basis of who owned it, rather than whether it was appropriate to develop it. We have major problems with settlement patterns. Our settlements are too spread out, there are too many of them and they are not sufficiently dense near cities. In Dublin and other cities, railway lines frequently run through fields, while lands a significant distance from the lines were somehow rezoned and developed. Major mistakes have been made in this regard and it is much more difficult and expensive to provide hospitals and public transport services in the right places because people live in the wrong places as a result of poor planning over the years. This is an enormously expensive legacy that we will have to bear for generations unfortunately. It is also one of the issues that caused me to enter politics when I became a Fingal county councillor and one about which I still feel very strongly.

Deputy Murphy also expressed strong support for the rail interconnector project, which I also support. It is proposed to proceed with the project as a public private partnership project. However, in recent years, we have been unable to get many public private partnerships off the ground. We will re-examine the matter in 2015 to ascertain whether we can get the PPP market for transport moving again. If European leaders can agree a budget, I hope we will be able to secure some funding for the project through the Connecting Europe facility under TEN-T.

The Luas BXD project is an interconnector of sorts, linking up at St. Stephen's Green with the Luas line running south from St. Stephen's Green to the Tallaght, CityWest and Docklands Luas line. From there, it will travel through the north inner city and past the new DIT campus in Grangegorman to Broombridge, where it will link up with the Connolly to Maynooth line. The Luas BXD does not link up the two Luas lines for the sake of it but will serve as an interconnector. For example, it will enable a constituent of Deputy Murphy to board a train in Leixlip, change at Broombridge and travel directly to Dundrum. It is currently extremely difficult to complete this journey by public transport as one would probably have to take two or three buses and it would take a long time. Once the new line has been completed, people will be able to make a seamless change from the train to the Luas. I could provide many similar examples.

The rail interconnector, which is an underground project, is different again and would benefit the entire country. For example, it would allow the DART to be extended as far as Balbriggan to the north, Greystones to the south and into my constituency as far as Dunboyne and Maynooth and perhaps further to Navan. I would like the project to proceed but it will be some time before that occurs.

While it is planned to increase fares on public transport every December, we will try to keep the increases to a minimum. This will depend on other factors such as subvention and cost savings elsewhere in CIE.

The story of privatisation of the railways in Britain is interesting because although it was initially a disaster, more people are using the railways in Britain now that at any time since the war. It has been a success, therefore, in terms of the numbers using rail. Moreover, the subvention per passenger kilometre is now lower than it was in the past. Following the initial disaster, therefore, privatisation has been a success.

The position in respect of buses in Britain was entirely different.

Outside of London, bus services were deregulated and privatised entirely. It was a disaster and bus services collapsed. What was done inside London was different, though. In London, bus services are still subvented. Indeed, the subventions are high, but various companies tender for them. As a result, there is good value for money.

Deputy Lawlor mentioned last night's tragedy on Dawson Street in which a man lost his life. I wish to extend my sympathy to his family and to the bus driver involved. It must have been traumatic and shocking for him. I was caught in the gridlock. I will speak to the Garda and various authorities about how such an incident can be managed better in future and what was done with the real-time passenger information, RTPI, signs.

Deputy Mattie McGrath mentioned a number of matters, that of the fuel rebate for hauliers in particular. It was hard fought for and well won by the Irish Road Haulage Association, IRHA. The association went about it the right way, made its case well, used independent analysts to support its case and campaigned strongly for the rebate. I wish to acknowledge the work of Deputies Heather Humphreys and Áine Collins in assisting the IRHA and me in getting the issue of the rebate across the line. It will work. It will reduce fuel tourism out of Ireland and encourage it into Ireland, which is a positive. It will also ensure greater compliance in the sector, as only tax compliant and fully licensed operators will be eligible for it, which is an important element.

I was asked whether the rebate will extend to buses. I still need clarity on this matter, as much of it relates to European regulations in this space. The cost of including buses in the rebate is small and would be covered in the Estimate in Wednesday's budget.

I thank Members for their understanding of and support for the Bill.

Question put and agreed to.