During the past few weeks various Deputies have had questions on the Order Paper regarding the transport system of the country, especially in its application to the City of Dublin. Regardless of their Party affiliations, the Dublin Deputies were very much alarmed when they read in the newspapers that the Minister for Industry and Commerce was about to give consent to a proposal to increase the tram and bus fares in Dublin. To-day the Minister for Industry and Commerce paid us the compliment of receiving 18 Dublin Deputies and, as much as we were alarmed within the past few weeks with what we read in the newspapers about the transport system, its failures, and its almost complete collapse, we were more alarmed than ever by what we heard from the Minister this evening. In fact I feel a little bit handicapped to-night after having heard from him a couple of hours ago a statement of the facts so far as they apply to the railway system and especially in their application to the City of Dublin.
All of us pressed him to retain the 1d. fare for bus users, especially in the City of Dublin. I had in mind in particular the activities of the Corporation Housing Committee on which there are some members of all Parties in this House. We have taken many thousands of our people from the very heart of the city and housed them on the outskirts three or four miles away. In most cases the shopping centres are at least a half-a-mile to three-quarters of a mile away from the furthest house in the building scheme. Having left the deplorable housing conditions in the centre of the city, the housewives living in these houses had to pay an increased rent after going out such a distance. We in the corporation had to have regard to the bus fares they would be compelled to pay as well as the increased rent. The Dublin Corporation Housing Department were creating a large number of good customers for the transport system in this way. These people had to include in their family budget the bus fares they were compelled to pay. For many families they run into 10/-a week on top of the increased rent.
We thought that the Minister and the Government would continue at least to give a half-mile journey for 1d. so as to give the housewife an opportunity of going from her home to the shopping centre to pack her basket. The 1d. journey, say, from Ventry Park, West Cabra, to Phibsboro' Corner is a considerable distance for anyone who has to carry a full basket. There are other houses in areas such as Crumlin, Donnycarney, Whitehall. Kimmage in which the shops are at least half-a-mile to three-quarters of a mile away. People could travel that distance perhaps without very much trouble, but a housewife with a full basket would find it very difficult. The 1d. fare, therefore, was very useful to her.
I hope it is not too late to ask the Minister to change his mind and give us back the 1d. fare, even if he shortens the distance, and try to arrange the other fares in such a way that the finances he expected to get from the increases will accrue, but perhaps not to the extent he had hoped for. I ask him not to abolish the 1d. fare and leave these people in the position of having to pay 100 per cent. increase. It must be remembered that the 1d. fare each way amounts to 2d., which will mean that these people will have to pay 4d. for the journey there and back.
Four years ago we were promised by the then Government a most elaborate passenger service. Most of the trams were taken off against the will of the people. The Dublin Corporation had some little control over the tram system. We had the right to be heard and our recommendations were always carefully considered before any changes were made. Some 20 years ago, when an effort was made to make some changes, these changes were successfully opposed by the then Commissioners, Mr. Murphy, Mr. Hernon and Dr. O'Dwyer. Four years ago the Government, in their wisdom, merged the transport systems and they promised great things. On the 9th May, 1944, the then Taoiseach, Deputy de Valera, stated in the debate on the Transport Bill:—
"Everybody must admit that, for very many years, our transport services have been in an altogether unsatisfactory position and that the sooner we improve that position the better."
Further on he said:—
"The reorganisation of the capital of the company is designed to reduce expenses and there is a saving of about £70,000 per year, I think, in respect of debenture interest and so on, but the total saving is much more."
Further on, Deputy de Valera, then Taoiseach, said:—
"A saving of £70,000 in respect of an immediate reduction of interest charges. What the State is doing is giving a guarantee. That guarantee, I think, is not likely ever to be required."
Deputy McGilligan interjected and said:—
I remember that: I was here on the occasion. When the Taoiseach said the guarantee would not be required, Deputy McGilligan said "Not?" with emphasis, and the Taoiseach, Deputy de Valera, said:—
"I do not think so."
The Minister for Industry and Commerce to-day told us that, not alone were the guarantees required, but he has to find a very large sum of money— but let him announce that himself. I sympathise with him and quite appreciate his duty, but I do implore him, in his effort to build up the transport services, to have consideration for the class of the community that I and other Deputies speak for, especially those Deputies in Dublin who represent areas to which the corporation has sent people from the centre of the city. If he can do something to meet us and see that the 1d. fare is restored, or at any rate not doubled, we will all be grateful to him.