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Public Transport

Dáil Éireann Debate, Tuesday - 3 July 2012

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Questions (2)

Dessie Ellis

Question:

85Deputy Dessie Ellis asked the Minister for Transport; Tourism and Sport if he will provide an update on the meetings he has attended with trade unions representing workers based in bodies such as Iarnród Éireann, Dublin Bus and Bus Éireann to discuss the effects of the cuts his Department has made. [32097/12]

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Oral answers (8 contributions) (Question to Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport)

The Deputy's question relates to meetings with trade unions representing workers in Iarnród Éireann, Dublin Bus and Bus Éireann. I have not formally met trade unions working on behalf of any of the three companies. As I am sure the Deputy is aware, discussions have taken place between unions and Irish Rail, the outcome of which was recently accepted after a ballot of members. In the case of the bus companies, I understand negotiations with the relevant trade unions are ongoing.

In budget 2012 the Government announced cuts of approximately €22 million for CIE and to the rural transport scheme. Irish Rail, Dublin Bus and Bus Éireann carried much of the 8% loss in funding, resulting in fare increases and the further downgrading of services. Routes were closed, while others were limited and changed to adapt to the lower funding level. Our poor and, in many places, non-existent public transport system was further run down. In early June Bus Éireann and Dublin Bus announced that they would need to put substantial numbers of their workers on the dole if the latter did not engage in so-called reform. This reform is simply a rowing back on the achievement of decent pay and conditions for workers and the delivery of a decent service. This is not a choice - it is the inevitable consequence of large cuts to already underfunded services. Ireland's State transport companies are among the least subsidised, with Dublin Bus and Bus Éireann-----

A question, please.

I am coming to it. Budget 2013 is being framed an I am asking that we not erode services further. Will the Minister of State give an indication to this effect and that there will not be major cuts? Many of the services and workers cannot take any more. In my area bus services have been cut, with significant consequences. I urge that further cuts not be made.

In my portfolio I have travelled around the country quite a bit and engaged in dialogue with the relevant workers. As recently as yesterday, I met workers during my travels. In the case of CIE, I will continue to engage with the workers informally and their representatives formally. The situation is not pretty and is difficult to address, as I hope the Deputy appreciates. Passenger numbers have decreased by 21.7% from their height in 2007, while revenue has decreased by €56.8 million, or some 11.4%, from its height in 2008. The reduction in the subvention from its height of €45.6 million in 2008 was necessary. It is a difficult scenario. There will be a 20% reduction in subvention from 2012 to 2014.

There is a cost recovery programme and the Deputy is aware of what is happening in Irish Rail. It would not be appropriate for me to comment on the position of Bus Éireann or Dublin Bus as those companies are in the middle of negotiations. We are considering various other mechanisms to try to improve the volume of people using public transport in conjunction with the great efforts of unions with management in maintaining or limiting costs across the three organisations. I encourage the Deputy, as a spokesperson on transport, to be part of the discourse in promoting public transport. Recently there was the launch of the national route planner, the Leap card and real-time passenger information. There are also other initiatives, including rolling out Wi-Fi across a number of services. We must get more people using public transport. We all have a responsibility in this regard given the very difficult position in which we find ourselves.

I promote public transport and I believe in it. If there is to be a reduction of 20% in the subvention over the next couple of years, it will have significant repercussions. We should not reduce our public subsidies as there will be significant consequences. It is important for us to engage with trade unions, which represent workers, and the Minister of State should meet those representatives to reassure them that services will be maintained as best they can.

I thank the Deputy for his comments. Irish Rail engaged in very detailed negotiations with unions and I am pleased the ballot was passed and the negotiations concluded in a satisfactory way. There are ongoing negotiations with the representatives of staff in Bus Éireann and Dublin Bus which preclude me from commenting in detail on the outcome. I am enthusiastic about the co-operation being shown by all parties in these negotiations in very difficult times. The management and unions working together should be welcomed and endorsed because of their position and the statistics I outlined earlier.

Deputy Mattie McGrath is not here at the moment so we will proceed to Question No. 87.

Question No. 86 not taken.

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