RAILWAYS BILL, 1924. - (THIRD STAGE—RESUMED.)

Senator The Earl of Kerry is not moving the amendment standing in his name, but another amendment will be moved on the same point.

NEW SECTION 70.

I move:—

Immediately after the preceding section to insert a new Section 70 as follows:—

So long as the interest be paid to the Minister for Finance on the loans set out in the Eleventh Schedule hereto repayment of the said loans or any of them shall not be demanded by the Minister for Finance before the first day of January, 1935.

The loans referred to are mentioned in another amendment, and I think they should be coupled up together. I do not know why they were separated. It is simply a plea to request the Government to extend to the new company a certain amount of latitude in the repayment of those three loans amounting to £300,000 and I can scarcely think the Minister can have any objection to it. It is postponing to a definite date payment which would be very difficult to obtain all of a sudden.

There is a certain difficulty about this amendment. A guarantee was given to the railway company that so far as the Government were concerned these loans would not be called in, I think, for a period of ten years. We intend to abide by that guarantee. It is a different matter to put an amendment such as this in our Bill, because there is a certain doubt as to the ownership of this money, and a great difficulty would be created by passing this amendment. The money will be looked after at any rate, but this might involve a sudden call from the other side for the repayment of certain money, and I do not think it would be wise to have the amendment put in as long as the guarantee is given.

I am satisfied with such an assurance.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
FIRST SCHEDULE.
AMALGAMATING AND ABSORBED COMPANIES.

1

2

Amalgamating Companies.

Absorbed Companies.

Great Southern and Western Railway Company, including the Geashill Extension separate undertaking.

Athenry and Tuam Extension to Claremorris Railway Company, Limited.Ballinascarthy and Timoleague Junction Light Railway Company.

Midland Great Western Railway Company of Ireland.

Ballinrobe and Claremorris Light Railway Company, Limited.Baltimore Extension Railway Company, Limited.

Dublin and South Eastern Railway Company, including City of Dublin Junction Railways and New Ross and Waterford Extension Railways.

Bantry Extension Railway Company.Cavan and Leitrim Railway Company, Limited.

Clonakilty Extension Railway Company.

Cork, Bandon and South Coast Railway Company including the Bantry Bay Extension.

Cork, Blackrock and Passage Railway Company.Cork and Macroom Direct Railway Company.

Cork and Muskerry Light Railway Company, Limited.

Donoughmore Extension Light Railway Company, Limited.

Dublin and Kingstown Railway Company.

Loughrea and Attymon Light Railway Company, Limited.

Schull and Skibbereen Tramway and Light Railway Company. (West Carberry Tramways and Light Railways Company, Limited).

South Clare Railways Company Limited.

Southern Railway Company.

Timoleague and Courtmacsherry Extension Light Railway Company.

Tralee and Dingle Light Railway Company, Limited.

Tralee and Fenit Railway Company.

Waterford and Tramore Railway Company.

West Clare Railway Company, Limited.

I move:—

In the First Schedule, immediately after the words "Donoughmore Extension Light Railway Company, Limited," in column 2, to insert the words "Dublin and Blessington Steam Tramway Company and Blessington and Poulaphouca Tramway Company."

There is one thing about this amendment that should appeal to the House, that is, that there are no involutions or hidden meanings about it, and, therefore, no reason for that difficulty which was mentioned at the last meeting of this House. The effect will be that if this is embodied in the Bill, the Dublin and Blessington Steam Tramway Company will be included in the absorbed companies, and, therefore, the company will be in a position to carry on the services which it is rendering to the inhabitants of the districts through which this particular line runs. A similar amendment to this was brought up in the other House, and was defeated for a variety of reasons. One of the reasons was that this company was described as a tramway. This company was incorporated under the same Act as all the other baronially guaranteed railways. If this company is not included amongst the absorbed companies I am afraid the service will, after a short time, cease, and the employees will be out of their employment. A very large amount of traffic is being done in that particular direction, which cannot be tapped or controlled from any other railway company in the district. I am interested in the ratepayers of some of the baronies in Dublin and Wicklow, and it seems very unfair to us that this particular company, of all the other baronially guaranteed companies, was meted out exceptional treatment. If the company ceases to operate we will still be paying an amount per annum necessary to pay dividends on the ordinary stocks of the company. The President, in the other House, mentioned that though not in favour of including this company here, he was in favour of doing something for the company. The Minister in charge of the Bill said something of the same nature. It seems an unfortunate thing that at this particular juncture this company should cease operations when in a very short time one of those hydro-electrical schemes will come into existence. Here is a company ready to do work economically. Owing to the high costs it is difficult to work it economically at the present time. This company has been twitted with the fact that it would be an incubus on the associated railways. There are others which will have a similar effect. This company had a surplus over working expenses up to the end of 1913, which contributed towards paying dividends to the shareholders. Some of those other companies were taken over by the counties many years previous to that. I appeal to the Minister to look at this matter carefully, and not to put the ratepayers of these baronies in a very invidious position, and also to give us some equivalent of what the ratepayers of the baronially guaranteed districts are getting.

I rise to support the amendment, and do so because I think that the counties of Dublin and Wicklow are scarcely being treated on equal lines with the County Cork and others we have heard of to-day. I scarcely need emphasise the fact that this Blessington line was built practically under the same Act as some ten of the absorbed lines in the schedule, and the mere phrase "tramway" should not influence the Minister in giving a negative verdict against our desire. Under the Act under which this was constructed the word "railway" does not occur, and I think it is a total misapprehension to distinguish in those points between a tramway, such as the Blessington Tramway, and a light railway in any other part of the country. There were three reasons given in the other House as to why it should be exempted from the working of this Act:—

(1) It is a tramway, not a railway.

(2) It is not in direct contact with any main line.

(3) There is no indication of possible economies, if absorbed.

As regards connection with the main line, the Blessington Tramway has running powers on the Dublin United Tramway Company's lines, and brings materials into the city. It thereby gets into contact with the different termini of Dublin. As regards there being no indication of prospective economies, I think Senator Nesbitt was correct in his forecast that if the Liffey Power Development Schemes are carried out, the Blessington Tramway Company would be one of the first railways electrified in Ireland. I think that will be an extraordinary development possible in the interests of Dublin and the surrounding districts.

The argument has been made here that an amendment similar to this was defeated in the Dáil on the grounds that this was a tramway, and that the Bill was a Railway Bill. That is a very loose and a very indefinite way of putting quite a good argument that was used against the amendment in the other House. Might I point out a mistake arising here through certain circumstances in regard to nomenclature that seems to be in people's minds. The idea seems to be that under the Railways Bill we have to gather in all the bankrupt concerns in the country that were baronially guaranteed. That is really the reason why this has been proposed. It is baronially guaranteed, and it is bankrupt. That is not the basis on which the Railways Bill was built up. We did not go seeking round for all the bankrupt concerns in the country and try to put them on the shoulders of the new amalgamated undertaking. If the Dublin Tramways were a bankrupt company we could have the same arguments, with the same justice, as were urged by Senator Nesbitt. Another point is that there is no physical connection between the Dublin and Blessington Light Railway and any of the other railways having termini in Dublin. How are we going to unite?

Might I ask where the physical connection lies between the Cork and Muskerry Railway and the Great Southern and Western?

The President stated that in the Dáil there was no complete physical connection. There is no distance separating the Cork and Muskerry Railway with the termini in Cork as compared with the distance separating the Blessington tramway from any of the railway stations in Dublin. It is to all intents and purposes a tramway; its natural end is amalgamation with the Tramway Company in Dublin. That is the end towards which I am working, and about which negotiations are already proceeding, to try to have it and the Dublin and Lucan Light Railway amalgamated with the Dublin tramway. Senator Sir John Griffith said that we could unify this railway because of its running powers over the Dublin United Tramway, and that we could, therefore, bring it into connection with Westland Row and other places. If that would mean that we would have to unify the Dublin Tramway Company and bring it within the scope of the Railways Bill I cannot accede to it. That is an entirely different matter.

Not baronially.

There is a difficulty about this line from the point of view of the ratepayers. It is guaranteed by portion of Wicklow and portion of County Dublin. The County Wicklow people, having a much lesser valuation, are expected to pay equally for a line which has a very much smaller portion of its mileage in their barony than in County Dublin. That is a matter for adjustment, and it is a problem for the Local Government Ministry. The President stated that he would put it to the Minister for Local Government to have that question considered. I can promise that I will see also to it—but it is a Local Government problem—to have some adjustment made. As far as the railway or transport aspect of the question is concerned, I will try to deal with the Tramway Company so as to have this line and the Lucan line kept in existence. To deal with the matter in the way suggested in the amendment is outside the whole purpose of this Bill, which is to unify the railways of the country, not to pay so much at tention to the fact that they are bankrupt and that they will have to close —but to see that all the small lines which can be amalgamated will be amalgamated, and to effect such economy as would make them proper business concerns. Certain economies can be effected without amalgamating these lines. The directors of this line applied to the Office of Public Works and the Ministry of Industry and Commerce, and inspectors and officials were supplied to them and the whole working of the line from top to bottom was gone into and directions in which economy could be achieved were pointed out to them. I do not know if any steps have been taken to achieve these economies, but they will not be effected in a more speedy way by including in this Bill an amendment which cannot be included, for the main reason that there is no physical connection with the Dublin termini and we would have to join the railway up by taking over portion of the Tramway Company. Some case may be made for the adjustment between the two counties. That is a matter for the Minister for Local Government, and it will have to be settled in conjunction with the directors of the Tramway Company.

I would like to ask the Minister in regard to the proposals for certain economies that might be effected, was not there a question of a certain amount of money being expended in the first instance to put the line on a certain basis?

A particular economy was based on that, but there were also other economies which necessitated no expenditure. These have not been achieved.

One can effect certain economies and still not postpone the evil day on which the line must shut down.

I think the basis was, that the line would be put in a position in which the loss in working would not be larger than the loss was in 1913, and it was understood that that would be a satisfactory state of things as far as the guaranteed baronies are concerned.

I think the ratepayers would be perfectly agreeable to a condition of affairs whereby they would not lose more than they lost in 1913. If the Minister can point out where those economies can be effected, I think it would be very useful. If I have an assurance from the Minister that he will look into this matter with the Local Government Department, and use his best endeavours as regards the linking up of the Tramway Company——

I am endeavouring to negotiate with the Tramway Company regarding this and the Lucan line. As far as the adjustment between the two counties is concerned, I will refer that to the Minister for Local Government and ask him to see what he can do with reference to the injustice that has been done to the Wicklow Council.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move:—

To add at the end of column 2 the words: The County Donegal Railway, the Strabane and Letterkenny Railway, the Letterkenny Railway, the Londonderry and Lough Swilly Railway (including the Carndonagh and Burtonport Extension Lines) in respect of that portion of their respective undertakings in the Saorstát.

It is not my wish to do or say anything that would prove awkward or create unnecessary difficulties in connection with this Bill. Although I am quite aware that owing to the fact that the Donegal railways have a very small proportion of their lines, running in the Northern area, a technical difficulty is created. Still I think it is one that could be reasonably got over, and that the Government should make a reasonable effort to get over it, considering the advantage it would be not only to Donegal, but to the whole country, to have these lines linked up with the other railways. I would point out that in the Bill the Government take power to exercise control and authority in certain matters over these railways as far as 99 per cent. of the other lines is concerned—I refer to the powers taken under Clauses 31, 58 and 61. It seems to me in these clauses the principle of associating these lines with the amalgamation scheme is conceded, and that it should not be impossible to go a little further and bring them under the whole scope of the arrangements. It does not seem fair that small lines like these should have obligations imposed on them with regard to rates and fares and charges unless they are receiving the protection and benefits that would accrue from amalgamation. There are in Donegal, as I pointed out on the Second Reading, lines of light railways, narrow gauge lines, of three or four different systems under different management, with different head charges and different workshops, and that have to buy their plant and material in different markets. There is no other place in the Free State that offers a greater field for reform and economic management as the railways in Donegal. In fact, if there is a case in other parts of the country for amalgamation, there is a three times stronger case in Donegal and yet we are left completely out of the scheme, and completely isolated, and the Minister ought to know that isolation is as bad for districts as it is for individuals. I would appeal to him, therefore, to do something to bring Donegal railways under this scheme. It should not be beyond his ingenuity, or that of his advisers, to give us that assistance to which, I think, we are entitled in any scheme for the general development of the country. The constitutional question, I think, could be got over by getting the owners of the lines to lease to the amalgamated company that portion which runs in the Northern area. That, of course, would require legislation in the Northern and Imperial Parliaments, but I would remind the Minister that there is at present a Bill going through the Imperial Parliament to enable the Lough Swilly Railway to borrow £10,000 to build a station at Derry. I would appeal to the Minister to do what he can to relieve us.

Of course, I would be very anxious to do anything I could to relieve Donegal from any burden which may be on it, and any disadvantage it may suffer from by reason of not having proper railway service. What is proposed by the amendment is that we should compulsorily acquire the Donegal Railway, the Strabane and Letterkenny Railway, the Letterkenny Railway, and the Londonderry and Lough Swilly Railway. The latter has head offices in Derry, and is outside our control, and its rolling stock is outside of our control. What we could seize is that portion of the permanent line which runs in the territory of the Saorstát. That would not do the Donegal traders much good, if we were to take over these portions of the line without rolling stock or any other asset outside the permanent way. The Donegal Railway is, I believe, in a different position. It, I believe, works portion of the Strabane and Letterkenny Railway, and, as it is, that portion of the line which it works is partly owned by the Great Northern Railway and partly by the London, Midland and Scottish. Is it suggested that we should seize these particular lines and rolling stock, just because portion of the line is in our territory?

Which line is the Minister referring to?

The County Donegal.

That is the portion that runs from Strabane to Glenties. There is only one portion in the Northern territory. The other portion runs to Derry and belongs to the London, Midland and Scottish, and that we do not want you to have anything to do with.

I was making a distinction between the Londonderry and Lough Swilly Line. The Head Office is outside our territory.

We are willing to bring the Head Office in if you will include the line in the scheme.

That is a different matter. I think we should have notice to consider it. To have a railway like this suddenly put up to me in the Seanad is embarrassing. It is not a thing I could bind myself to. I should have to see whether there are any difficulties in taking it over, and that the advantages balance the disadvantages. If the Senator brings me a proposition with regard to the Londonderry and Lough Swilly Railway, with head offices in the Free State, with some arrangement for working the two miles outside our area, I would look into it. It is owned by the Great Northern and London, Midland and Scottish. I understand that is the case. If it is suggested that we should come down and seize that, I do not think it is to be for the benefit of Donegal trade. We should have to take over the rolling-stock and everything else, and the other assets would be beyond our control or seizure. We would be saddled with a liability, and it would be a burden on the amalgamated company to run that line. If the Senator thinks that there is any accommodation likely, and that these people will be disposed to come to terms, that is a matter for further consideration. I cannot accept an amendment which sets out as this does here that I should seize simply these four railways. That could not possibly be fitted in under the terms of the Bill. There is a big constitutional question involved in regard to the Londonderry and Lough Swilly Railway, which is outside our territory, and we could not do that without an agreement.

What about the other alternative I spoke about on the Second Reading: that you should leave it open to the railway companies to apply to be included, and that you should leave them the option, say, to the end of the current year? What I want to do is to co-ordinate the railways, to secure the principle of amalgamation, and let the constitutional details be looked into afterwards.

Clause 60, I think, meets that. There is a remedy provided in that clause for bringing in these railways afterwards.

Does it give them the option of applying afterwards to be included in the scheme?

The Senator now gets away from his previous statement. He said they were ready to come in. If they are ready to come in an agreement can be made and confirmed under Clause 60, but now he is getting absolutely away from that and getting into other difficulties.

There are four railway systems here. If one objected and wanted to stay out, would any of them, if they wished to come in, be allowed to come in?

The four are almost inextricably entangled, and it is difficult to consider them as separate entities at the moment. The Senator will see in Clause 60 that if they are working to an agreement that agreement can be confirmed. But we do not intend to bring them in compulsorily. If any one comes separately from the other three with an agreement, that agreement can be confirmed, and that one can be brought in.

AN CATHAOIRLEACH

Does the Senator wish that his amendment should be put to the Committee?

I would wish for an assurance that something more would be done. In the circumstances, I would ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Question—"That the First Schedule stand part of the Bill"—put and agreed to.
Second Schedule agreed to.