Private Members' Business. - Transport Bill, 1962—Second Stage (Resumed).

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

In the course of my observations on this Bill last week, I dealt with the general question of CIE and my reasons for recommending the rejection of the Bill. I have had an opportunity since of studying all the points made, and I have something further to say.

I note that the sponsors of the Bill have suggested the elimination of the section of the Act which impels CIE to become a self-paying organisation within a period, and that in connection with many observations made by Deputy Dr. Browne and Deputy McQuillan, the idea is put forward that for the sake of better services for the public, we should consider subsidies as a permanent feature of CIE administration.

I want to say straight away in that regard that, assuming what I think is impossible—that this Bill is passed by the House and adopted by the Government—if the board of CIE with the new directions given by the Government felt they need no longer pay their way by a certain period and took it from that that no railway line should be closed, I think it would be a ludicrous decision on their part. I want to make it quite clear that my view is that even if the impossible were to happen and this Bill were passed, CIE should still take the point of view that, for the sake of the public in general, and for the sake of the taxpayers in general, they should provide whatever service is best, most convenient and cheapest for the majority of the people.

Not the cheapest.

Therefore, I would recommend CIE to go ahead and continue closing railway lines which have ceased to be of any economic importance to the communities concerned. I am not certain from Deputy Dr. Browne's remarks whether he himself is really a dedicated railway hysteric, as some people are in this country, or whether he really believes in keeping railway stations open where only one person gets into the train every day.

I want to make it clear that having studied the whole question of railways, not only in this country but in others with comparable social conditions, I repeat what I said before. I see railways more and more in the future as fast conveyor belts for the comfortable carriage of passengers over reasonably long distances, and for the haulage of goods of the kind which, first of all at present can take double handling —with the exception of the very small minority of goods that may actually be produced in or removed from some place which is practically touching a railway station—and which secondly are of a character which lend themselves to transport by train. The whole community ought to realise that that is what is happening in connection with railways, not only in this country but all over Europe.

It is simply no use not facing the issue in regard to double handling. I do not see why the taxpayers should pay a large sum of money every year in order that some difficulty or other of double handling should be got over by CIE making uneconomic charges in their rail services for that purpose. Why should we have any particular approval of double handling? What is the purpose of this House supporting or subsidising double handling of goods, when, as everyone knows, because of increases in wages which have quite rightly taken place, particularly in the group of staff concerned with handling merchandise, it has become completely uneconomic? I wanted to make that point clear so that everyone would understand the position that if, as I have said, this Bill were passed, any sensible board would still continue to adopt the attitude of the present Board of CIE which is fully supported by myself, and not have any prejudice in regard to any particular form of the transport services which they use.

I do not consider that empty trains and empty lorries confer a prestige value upon the towns through which they pass. I just do not believe it. I have seen any number of towns in Europe and in England where the existence or non-existence of a railway has nothing to do—or shall we say little to do, in the main—with the existence of a railway station in the area. The people who believe that empty trains equivalent to just a handful of lorries confer some sort of wonderful benefit upon an area are, in my opinion, out of date completely. The people of the country have decided that it is out of date and they are not supporting the railways in those areas where there are short branch lines.

They prefer to travel by their own motor cars within the region or by bus. They prefer to take the bus services and the lorry services where stops are frequent and where a great number of small scattered areas are served. They prefer in the case of the lorry services to have the personal attention of some one they know, who calls regularly every week, or every day, or every two days, and who collects their small parcels of produce and conveys them to another area. They prefer the personal relationship between the lorry driver, the local inspector and the customer. Where there are a large number of scattered villages and communities, the lorry service is of immense value. No matter how perfect people may be on the railway lines—no matter how kindly the stationmaster or the porter—they cannot give the personal service because the train does not run up to the door of the farm house.

That is pure rubbish.

There are some people who are so hysterical in believing in railways that they would like to see them running along lines all over the country.

There are no hysterics.

It is well known——

The line I am talking about carried thousands of people and the Minister wrecked it.

The Deputy should allow the Minister to make his statement. The Deputy had his opportunity and should allow others the same facility.

I fully accept that but the Minister might say something reasonable and give some explanation, instead of coming in here and standing over the wreckage.

The Minister is not obliged to say what any Deputy likes; neither is the Deputy.

I do not think there is any need for Deputy Lynch to be so bitter about this. He and I disagree profoundly about this and it is much better for him to take the point of view that he does not like what I say rather than be bitter about it. I do not believe that when a branch railway line closes, it creates wreckage. That is the difference between me and the Deputy and let us disagree in a friendly way. It will not get him any further to interrupt me or to be bitter.

The Deputy would not be half as bitter if the Minister would answer the Parliamentary Questions I have been putting to him for over a year. I asked him was his bus service to Tramore paying and he has not told me that yet.

Will the Deputy cease interrupting?

I next wanted to stress something which has not been appreciated sufficiently, I have said too little about it when I dealt with the Bill on the last occasion, and that is the relation of this Bill with all the implications of our joining the Common Market. I have read everything I can find about the transport policy of the Common Market, much of which has not yet been defined, none of which is fully in operation, but I can go this far: I can say that it is more than likely that there will be some degree of liberalisation in regard to transport which will affect CIE.

My general deduction from making a study of the proposals that have been made in relation to transport if we join the Common Market has had this result that I have told the Chairman of CIE that he should proceed as fast as possible to reorganise the company and to reduce the subsidy because whatever will be the final decisions in this country as to our co-ordination with the EEC for transport purposes, I am perfectly certain greater efficiency, a lower rate of subsidy than at present and a position whereby we can avoid all subsidy will be the best ground on which to conduct any negotiations required for our co-ordination with the EEC rules.

I do not think anybody, no matter what opinion he has about the value of railways or the operations of CIE, who reads the reports that have been prepared so far would suggest that it would be wise or politic for us at this moment to pass a Bill which in effect says to CIE: "You do not need to worry about Government subsidies. Carry on making further losses if you wish." Anybody who has read these documents would agree it would be ludicrous to propose that.

I want to make it clear I do not know what the result of the transport policy decisions will be. You can read the various proposals and the general resolutions passed, and you can interpret them in different ways. It is quite possible in the case of this country there may be limiting factors which will be the result of our negotiation on these matters as in regard to other matters. Having said that, I am perfectly certain it will be wise for us to continue the present policy and that it will be to our advantage in the end, that whatever the final decision is, the more efficiently CIE is run the better for ourselves, the better for our exports and the better for our transport position generally.

I wish to say something about Deputy Dr. Browne's observation to the effect that the Government approved of subsidies and had already instituted them in connection with other services. I thought I made it sufficiently clear that, first of all, there is a very big distinction between current operating subsidies and capital subsidies, subsidies that are given once and for all for the establishment of industry, for the reclamation of land, for arterial drainage and for many other purposes in which there is no element of current, operated subsidy to pay for current operating losses——

What about butter?

——where the person who receives the subsidy proceeds from then on to carry out his business as efficiently as possible without State assistance. So far as agricultural subsidies are concerned, I need only refer Deputies of the House to the observations that have been made by the Minister for Agriculture and by the Taoiseach last night on the occasion of the Ard Fheis in which we have made it perfectly clear we much prefer an organised marketing system for agricultural produce as proposed by the EEC to a system of subsidies——

The British market is gone forever.

——which we operate partly because of the tremendous assistance afforded by some industrial communities whose cost to them is negligible and whose cost to us is a very considerable percentage of the gross national product. If anybody thinks there is any comparison between the subsidy on butter, which is paid for the reason I have stated, and the subsidy to CIE then he had better have a second thought on the matter because there is no comparison.

Taking it by and large, this Government has never believed in establishing permanently the principle of subsidies which cover current operating deficits, and, if they have, it is only for very special reasons and under very special circumstances.

There are many special reasons.

As I have said in regard to capital grants, there are grants which are sometimes free grants to the community; sometimes they are loans on which interest and repayment are required. We have a great many of these and now we have applied the principle to CIE. We have written off a great deal of their capital on which they had no hope of paying any interest and we have advanced other fresh capital on which they will pay interest for the development and modernisation of the transport services provided by them to the public.

I do not think people understand what happens when a subsidy is paid to CIE, a current operating subsidy, the taxation for which is raised in each financial year. Deputies constantly talk as though you can pay subsidies without causing any reduction in purchasing power anywhere else. I do not see why the public should be asked to buy fewer goods, to employ fewer people in factories, to save less for their children's education, in order to support CIE to an even greater extent than they are at present. This is a most doubtful argument. The economic rules about this are pretty remorseless. For every £1 we put into CIE a £1 is being subtracted somewhere else which would have an employment effect. If anyone can defeat that argument I should like to hear it being done. It is accepted by both communists and capitalists alike. The only thing one can say is that in certain circumstances it may be necessary to eliminate purchasing power from other services in order to give special aid under special circumstances to some service. That is all that can be said about it.

The taxation now required to pay the past losses of CIE and the present subsidy, amounts to £3,000,000 a year, roughly a bit over £1 per head of the population per year, or about £4 10s. per year per household. I wonder what would happen if that money were collected from householders in this form: that the less well-off would pay a little less than this £4 10s., and the more well-to-do would pay more. And then if we were to go to these householders and say: "We do not want CIE to break even; would you mind each giving us £2 a year more on top of what you are already giving," what would they say to us? People would talk very differently about our transport services if we were to put the matter to them in that way.

Deputy S. Dunne made some references to the cross-subsidisation that exists in CIE whereby some services make profits and subsidise other services which make losses. One could argue endlessly as to what degree of cross-subsidisation there should be in relation to any public service. All I can say about it now is that cross-subsidisation exists to a considerable degree in relation to the operation of a great many State companies, both in this country and all over the world. The urban dwellers subsidise the rural electrification operations of the ESB on a very considerable scale, to the tune of nearly £1,000,000 a year, for the simple reason that in a country which has fewer villages than any other in Europe, and a more scattered population, it is absolutely essential that the people living in urban and more highly industrialised areas should assist those living in the scattered districts.

The same is true of many private companies where the accountants will inform the directors that they do not make a profit on the distribution of some of their lines of goods in certain areas, but that they do make a profit on such goods elsewhere. Therefore, cross-subsidisation is a very common feature of State company operation of this kind and is quite inevitable in certain circumstances like those of CIE.

I did indicate that the bus fares paid in Dublin compare reasonably with those paid in provincial cities in Great Britain. That, I thought, was a very fair comparison. The difficulty faced by CIE is that we have a very low density of population—one of the lowest in Europe—and that the provision of any form of public transport is extremely difficult because of that low density of population, because of the scattered nature of the population.

I should make clear also that I do not think anyone will deny that the tremendous growth in the private car population in this country in the past few years has had nothing whatsoever to do with the operations of CIE. People have made their personal decisions in this respect and even though their incomes are extremely modest, they are determined to own private cars. There is now one car for every 14 persons in this country. I do not know whether that is one to every three or four households but it is roughly between three and four. Let no one imagine that that simply means only the wealthy have cars. One has only to go to any building site to see the very large number of cars owned by operatives.

In what other way would they get the 40 odd miles many of them have to travel to work?

I am not talking about where they have to go or how far. I think it is a wonderful thing to see them owning their own cars.

If CIE laid on a bus service, they would not need cars and would not have them.

I am referring to sites where no bus service could possibly be provided. It is no use people giving us this poor mouth stuff about this. Everybody knows the number of cars has increased tremendously, and it does not mean they are only owned by the wealthy. It is ludicrous to suggest any such thing.

Ninety-nine per cent. of them are owned by the hire-purchase people.

I am not talking about hire purchase. One would think from what has been said that it was a particular affliction that there were so many cars in this country.

The Minister is talking a lot of nonsense.

We have made an examination of this personal decision made by the public in relation to the purchase of private cars. This was done by the Beddy Committee and it is a fact that has not been stressed sufficiently. The position is that back in 1957 the number of private cars per £1,000,000 of national income in this country was the highest for any country in Europe, with the possible exception of France, where it was equal or slightly more. It was very much higher than in a great many countries. As I have said, the reason lies in the great absence of villages which would provide a centre for public transport and the enormous number of scattered farmsteads. Sweden is the country nearest to us in these physical conditions. The people here are scattered all over the country over an immense mileage of roads and it therefore becomes essential for them to have transport of their own.

This all means a fairly heavy cost on the incomes of many of the people, particularly to farmers in the 30 to 40 acre categories. If they do not own private cars, they possess utility vans which they can use for their personal transport and for the carriage of produce. There is nothing we can do about it and it has nothing to do with CIE, but it will undoubtedly provide CIE with most tremendous competition in the next ten years. Deputies know very well that the period from 1951 to 1961 would be a fair period to take in the matter of the growth of the private car population in this country. It includes periods of economic difficulty as well as periods of economic growth and if you apply the trend during that period to the years from now to 1970, assuming again some economic growth, it will be found that, by 1970, one person in every eight in the country will own a car and that one person in every four will own one in Dublin.

It would therefore be ludicrous to suggest that it has anything to do with CIE policy. It involves private decisions of thousands of people who will be earning greater incomes with the greater prosperity. Deputies will notice that I have not taken the near boom period in our economy. The quickest economic growth has taken place in the past two years. We must be realistic about the position of CIE and our public transport services in relation to those figures.

Deputy Dr. Browne referred in a quite ridiculous way to the report of CIE in which mention was made of the eighth round increase in wages and suggested that the Board imagined that wages could go up every year elsewhere but that they could not go up in CIE because CIE were not yet showing a profit. The Board never suggested anything of the kind and Deputy Dr. Browne must know himself that the Board of CIE are quite aware of the general increase in wages that has taken place over recent periods. But, in fact, the wage content of CIE costs is so high that the eighth round wages increase had a very serious effect on the economy of the company. The company, with a turn-over of some £20,000,000 to £22,000,000 and which had a wage increase in one year of £2.35 million, naturally find their economy affected very severely. CIE found themselves unable to pass their costs on to the public completely. Some of the rates were raised but it was impossible to pass on the whole of that wage increase all at once.

Then Deputy Dr. Browne went on to suggest that CIE were acting like a private company and in order to retain their accustomed dividend, had increased the cost of the commodity or the service to the public. CIE have not made any profit.

Increased fares.

That does not make a profit. The company are still losing. I wonder what the taxpayer would have said if the Government, prompted by Deputy Dr. Browne, had added £2.35 million to last year's Budget in order that the passenger rates and the freight rate should remain the same for this year? I just wonder what would have happened if the public had been asked to pay that sum? They would have regarded it as ridiculous. They would have regarded it as the sort of economic action which would eventually bring chaos to the whole economy of the State.

I want to make my attitude clear in regard to this whole question of wage increases. I hope, in relation to CIE and enterprises which have the difficulties of CIE to face and enterprises such as those that would be affected by the Common Market, that the proposals made by the National Employer-Labour Conference Economic Committee will be studied very carefully and will in some form be adopted finally when all the decisions of that Conference have been considered and put into general operation. I hope that Deputy Dr. Browne does not disagree with planning nationally in relation to wages and incomes. I do not suppose he does. I do not suppose he objects to the proposals made by this Committee which suggested, and I quote :—

The Sub-Committee agrees it is desirable that efforts should be made to establish a more rational and better-informed basis for wage discussions and negotiations at whatever level they normally take place. It should be appreciated that the significance and importance of the factors depends largely on the scope and nature of the discussions and the level at which they take place.

Then they said that in relation to any discussion of wage increases, there should be a national level of consideration and the factors that should be examined would be—changes in the level of prices, effect of price changes on the purchasing power of wages and salaries, import price changes and effect of changes in home prices on the economy's competitiveness in exports, price changes in other European countries. Then also on the national level should be discussed national production, distinguishing between agricultural, industrial and other sectors, labour costs in relation to gross output of industry, changes in productivity. Another matter that should be discussed should be the overall employment situation, and incidence of overtime or short-time, changes in employment in particular sectors of industry and then emigration and employment problems. Also, the question of relative incomes should be discussed, the profits made by the community during the year, the investment in savings undertaken, a general economic forecast, external trade and balance of payments.

When individual wage discussions took place in relation to a particular industry, the Committee said:—

Nevertheless, the intention to introduce a more rational and better informed approach to wage discussion should be made and to that end it is considered that the following factors are relevant to wage discussions taking place at other than national level.

They then set out the following:— the period since the previous adjustment in wages, changes in wage rates in other occupations and industries, alteration in standard working hours, changes in other conditions of employment, incentive payments schemes, the level of wages in relation to other industries, the economic and financial position of firm or industry, the position of firm or industry in relation to exports, changes in productivity, change in the nature of work, the skill involved, the responsibility, the extent of supervision, labour costs in industry or firm in relation to other costs and the impact of change in wages on labour costs and effect on prices, availability of labour and the future prospects of industry or firm.

All I have to say in relation to wage negotiations for any of the State companies over which I have supervision is that I look forward to the application of these principles in an intelligent way to future wage negotiation discussions. If the Board of CIE and the trade unions bore those kinds of considerations in mind, it would be possible for the workers of CIE to have greater chances of promotion, greater chances of employment and greater chances of employment for their families when they grow up. Such will be the result if, as I have said, they have an intelligent and rational discussion on the future of the company as it moves forward from one year to another. I know that the Board would agree with me in that.

Therefore, anything that has been said in the Board's report in relation to the eighth round relates to the particular effect in that particular year of the eighth round. As I have said, it is not possible for every company, private or public, to absorb the effects of the eighth round. What is wanted is more intelligent, rational thinking and action on the whole subject.

We must also consider the general question of exactly what CIE is supposed to do. I know Deputy Dr. Browne is a confirmed Socialist and therefore I must point out that, so far as I am concerned and so far as the Government are concerned, CIE have not been appointed by the Government under this or any other Act to take over the private transport of the country. From the Government's point of view there is no special virtue on national grounds in CIE taking over in the private sector of transport. What CIE is supposed to do is to provide the very best national transport service possible and fill in the gaps where private enterprise is not adequate to take over transport services which can be more economically provided by CIE. That is the job. There is no suggestion that CIE, fortified with Government capital and tremendous subsidies, should gradually eat into the private sector of transport.

The package deal is a perfect example of where comparisons are made between private transport and public transport. A company carrying goods in its own lorries is asked to do some cost accountancy to find out the real cost of carrying those goods, allowing for depreciation of vehicles, wages, fuel, maintenance and so on, and having done that, CIE examine the figures to see if they can offer a contract of service for an amount lower than that applicable to the private transport used by the company. It is perfectly obvious that is the way the transport system should be conducted partly because we believe in private enterprise and partly because the special conditions in this country, which I have already indicated, are such that in a great many cases private transport is the normal answer.

Some Deputies asked why it was that although some 850 people had been paid redundancy compensation in one form or another on retirement, the total staff of CIE had not been reduced by more than 200. The answer is that some services of CIE declined, those that were uneconomic, not sufficiently utilised by the public. Other services have expanded. Expansion has taken place in the road passenger service, the volume of which increased between 1958-59 and 1961-62 by four per cent. That includes a very much bigger increase in connection with provincial traffic taken by itself. The increase in volume in road freight was 68 per cent. The increase in the carriage of livestock by road was 76 per cent; the increase in rail freight was five per cent. The number of passengers carried by rail went down 13 per cent. There was an 80 per cent. increase in the number of passengers carried on tours and there was a very considerable increase in the hotel business.

The actual changes of staff can be inspected in the Trade Journal and Statistical Bulletin. They show that in a recent two-year period—I have not got the figures for the same period as that to which the traffic relates—there has been a reduction in the rail staff. There has been a reduction in the hotel and canal staff which would be largely related to canals. There has been a slight reduction in relation to road passenger services; there has been an increase in the road freight service staff and there has been some increase in the higher salaried staff, largely due to the fact that in CIE there was not a proper commercial sales organisation or a modern accountancy system. These had to be installed and the whole conception of selling service had to be instituted by CIE. Obviously CIE would have taken over those who were, in fact, found redundant if they were suitable for the new posts but in a great many cases they were people without the necessary skill. CIE did transfer very many——

Did Dr. Beddy not suggest there would be a reduction of something over 4,000 ?

The Beddy Report suggested there might be a very big reduction.

It gave the figure.

That has not taken place yet——


——but there is provision for it in the Act in the form of redundancy payments. I have had very little complaint about redundancy payments and the method of selection of the persons concerned.

Eighteen pounds a week for some of them is not bad.

But the trade unions and the Board of CIE managed to collaborate in arranging for these redundancies in a manner which enables me to say that there has been no major complaint made to me of any kind in regard to the system.

One or two Deputies suggested that the CIE service was inadequate and that I did not know what was going on in regard to it. I can assure the House that we do receive some complaints of poor service in relation to the State companies and we receive complaints of poor service in regard to CIE. Some of the complaints can be classified as occurring where a particular service does not suit a particular person and it would be impossible to alter that service without making someone else complain. A great many complaints fall into that heading. We examine all complaints and we refer them to CIE or the company concerned and, if any of them appear to be repetitive, we have formal discussions with CIE or any other company concerned.

I am glad to say we do not get very many complaints and I am perfectly certain, from examining the services abroad, that CIE bus services, for example, are of a very efficient order. I want to make it clear to Deputy Dr. Browne, when he suggested that he does not care a hang about international comparisons, that I completely disagree with him. I do not know whether, as a great admirer of the United Nations, he would like to go there as a delegate and recommend the complete abolition of all the elaborate comparative tables that are prepared there for no other purpose than to enable people to compare the services provided in relation to income in one country with another, and the general circumstances in one country with those in other countries.

That is a perfectly normal thing to do. I have no apology to make when I give comparisons between this country and other countries, between the services provided here and provided elsewhere for people who have twice the income per head that we have here, and when I say that a far greater proportion sit going to and from work in this country than in countries where people have 60 per cent., 70 per cent. or 80 per cent. or even 100 per cent. more income than we have, as they do in Northern Europe, I am stating the absolute truth——

Fifty-five minutes for a 12-mile journey. Tell us about that. Could they beat that record ?

I am coming to that point. Deputy Dr. Browne referred to some particular service going to Enniskerry. He also suggested there should be services going up to Glencree and Deerpark. He also mentioned Roundwood and did not know there was a private bus service going to Roundwood. I do not want to take the Deputy too literally. I know those areas fairly well. I know that if you were to provide publicly-run bus services operated by CIE, under CIE trade union conditions, in an the areas of the country which correspond with that network of roads, people would be pretty tired of paying the millions and millions of pounds of deficits that would be involved by trying to run a service of that kind because the population is too thin.

Whose fault is that ?

Even if a bus were running, it would not necessarily suit the personal needs of people living in all the houses, people working on farms, and so on. The moment that kind of proposal is made, I look at the bus network in any county of this country and compare it with that of other countries. I compare the bus network of this country with that, for example, of the most mountainous part of western Wales. I cannot see that we are offering a bad service, comparatively speaking.

Private bus services are licensed to operate and they operate very successfully in areas where CIE would find it uneconomic to do so. Deputy Dr. Browne will no doubt be mortified to learn that the private bus service does not charge profiteering rates to the passengers because it is private and not public. The passenger charges are very reasonable. My Department license private operators of small buses —mini-buses, if you like, or any kind of bus—in areas which it is not possible for CIE to operate without enormous loss

We have some 50,000 miles of public road in this country. We have one of the largest road mileages in the world in relation to the population because of its scattered character. A public bus service established over networks of that kind would cost a fortune in the year. All CIE can do is to provide the best possible service under existing conditions.

Are the troops busy ? The Minister will talk himself out of a job if he says too much.

Another observation that was made is to the effect that the Government and I are practically creating murder on the roads by permitting CIE to close some of these railways. I do not know whether anybody really believes it in the country but because there are so many railway hysterics around still—both here and in every other country: they exist everywhere—I might as well point out, in connection with the closing of the Portlaoise-Kilkenny, Clara-Banagher, Roscrea-Birr and Portlaoise-Mount-mellick lines, that it will require only six additional regular lorries and 12 lorries during the beet season—18, altogether, at certain times of the year but, when the beet season is not operating, just six additional lorries— and only one additional bus.

The number of commercial vehicles in Kilkenny, Laois and Offaly at the moment is 2,103 and the number of private cars operating in those counties is 11,373. It is ludicrous to suggest that the six lorries or, if you like, the 18 lorries will create murder on the roads. It is absolutely a ludicrous suggestion that I am committing a sin by permitting these railways to close on the grounds of the extra murder which will be done. One really must have a sense of proportion about these things.

Will they improve the roads ?

The proportion is so negligible that they can hardly do much damage to the roads.

They will be on the country roads and on the by-roads as well as on the main roads. That is where the real damage will be done.

Mr. Browne

Try to drive along the Bray road just now and see how fast you can go.

We must be realistic. In connection with the Clara-Banagher line, one extra lorry will be required in the ordinary way and two during the beet season. It is no good telling me that that will seriously affect the finances of the Offaly County Council because quite obviously it will not.

The figures for Cork were proved wrong.

I do not believe the figures furnished by CIE.

Even if you treble them, I do not mind. If the Deputy does not believe them, then let us assume, for the sake of argument, that they are really trying to deceive the Deputy and that the figure happens to be three instead of one. That will not wreck the roads, either.

How many private lorries will go on, in addition?

Will no private lorries go on?

We hope the people will send their goods by the lorry which replaces the line.

Yes, but it increases the traffic on the road.

It increases the traffic absolutely negligibly: that is the point. That is why the railway line is closing—because it is not used.

In regard to the lorry transport the Minister is now providing to replace the rails in LaoisOffaly, can he give a guarantee that the freight charges will be cheaper than the rail charges? That is what concerns me and the customers using the rail.

I cannot say what the circumstances will be when the Clara-Banagher service closes but I know that the substitute lorry services for the West Clare Railway got a higher tonnage than the railway. People must have been reasonably contented if the tonnage carried went up. The number of passengers on the substitute bus service went up, too. So far as I know, there has been no decline of any note in traffic carried by lorries—and people, therefore, must be fairly content.

Another suggestion was that CIE should be subsidised to a greater extent than at present and that we should cast a blind eye on its economic worth on the ground that there had been no serious approach to roadbuilding in this country. I must utterly disagree with that statement. We spent I do not know what but it was over £120 million on improving the roads of this country since the war. We have the most uncongested roads of any country of Europe, without exception and, even if traffic doubles on our roads, they will still be relatively uncongested. The only exceptions are certain areas close to cities. We have roads so pleasant that tourists are delighted when they come here to drive on them.

Because we have not a population of our own.

I cannot enter into that. We cannot really debate on this occasion what conditions would have been if we had 6,000,000 instead of 2,800,000 people. The fact remains that our roads are uncongested and of pretty good quality. Again Deputy Dr. Browne may not like it, but I intend to make comparisons. I have travelled over a great deal of Europe myself. I have seen figures but they are not so pleasing or so significant as personal inspection and I will say that the roads of this country are very satisfactory. Allowing for our income per head, we have done a very good job and they are getting better every year. The idea that CIE should be subsidised to a greater extent because of a complete absence of planning regarding road construction is, I think, ludicrous.

The question was asked why we bought expensive diesel engines to replace steam engines. The main reason was economy and not increased speed. They would have to be bought anyway, whether the speed of trains increased or not. I think it is true to say that in the past year, if CIE had not made economies of various kinds and had not changed over largely to diesel engine running, the loss would have been much more like £3 million to £3½ million.

Deputy Dr. Browne referred to the Netherlands railway system. I spent a day inspecting that system and the company partly due to war destruction adopted as their policy the kind of thing proposed in the 1958 Act. At the end of the war, they deliberately did not open miles and miles of railway and in consequence of re-organisation, the Netherlands railway system closed 67 per cent. of stations. How they got over the railway hysteria —unless perhaps it was absent in the Netherlands because it was the end of the war when the whole railway system had to be reconstructed—I do not know. Maybe there was not the railway hysteria there which there would be here if we closed 67 per cent. of stations quickly and got rid of them.

The basis of the Netherlands railway system is that they run fast trains stopping infrequently allowing for the immense congestion of population. Of course, when you compare the infrequent stopping, where trains run very fast and are mostly electric, you must remember that they have 872 people to the square mile compared with 104 here. In other words, the whole Netherlands population manages to live in an area the size of Munster, plus Galway county.

An absolute comparison is not possible. We can make only a relative comparison and the closing of 67 per cent. of their stations has to be related to the number to be closed here, where there is a much less dense population.

Another suggestion made was that CIE were not improving their coaches. They have a scheme for building new coaches. There are many new coaches and many reconstructed coaches in the service but on occasions, when there is very high super-peak traffic, they do use old coaches. Even in countries as modern, up-to-date and streamlined as Sweden, they use older coaches, sometimes, relatively speaking, quite antique coaches, during super-peak traffic periods. There may be some railways which use no old coaches when there is tremendous traffic in special circumstances but I very much doubt it. The Netherlands may be one because their stock was very largely destroyed during the war. It is not an unusual thing for a railway to use older stock during super-peak periods of traffic.

Another question which was asked was why the apparent average rate per ton for CIE for direct road services— it is reckoned on page 44 of the report and accounts—was lower in 1961-62 when it was ten shillings 6.2 pence than in 1960-61 when it was ten shillings 6.9 pence. The suggestion was made, again with absolute malevolence, that it was deliberate design on the part of the board to tax the poor people of the country for the benefit of rich businessmen. The reason for that was that CIE in the later part of the year carried an additional 400,000 tons for county councils and the additional revenue was only £62,000. The rate was three shillings and one penny per ton because, of course, this is lowly rated traffic. CIE have increased package deal rates, as and when rates were increased generally. For example, all package deal rates were increased by ten per cent. in February, 1962, so there is not a plot to tax the poor people of the country by charging less and less on heavier goods for the benefit of the rich manufacturer.

I think I have dealt very exhaustively with every question that was asked and I have covered the ground with the utmost detail. I propose to speak about my responsibilities in relation to CIE and the asking of questions in the Dáil, which is at your discretion, a Cheann Comhairle, on the general Estimate for the Department. It would be far better to make a general statement if I am asked to outline in relation to State companies, my responsibilities, those of the Government and those of the Oireachtas then rather than here in connection with this Bill. I heartily recommend the rejection of the Bill by the House.

It was not my intention to speak just now. I intended to wait until we had the Estimates but seeing that the Minister is absolutely determined to support the policy of the Chairman and Board of CIE on closing the railways, I get up to say something. They are infallible, according to the Minister. I do not know any of these gentlemen. I see the odd photograph in the papers now and again but I would ask the Minister how many of the board grew up with the railways. How many of them know how railways should be run? Is it not a fact that some of the members of the board know more about buses and trams than they do about the railway service? I would ask the Minister to consider that. I know they have done great work in clearing up stations and making stations presentable. Let us give them all credit for that.

It shows a policy of despair on the part of CIE to close the railways in such a manner. Think of having the railway from Mallow to Waterford closed down. Something may be said for closing the smaller branch lines, even though they feed the main lines. However, I would ask the Minister to reconsider the position in regard to the country generally. The railways should be regarded for the present as a social service, pending the implementation of a policy of full employment. The Minister has spoken about there being no people to travel on the railways. That is so because of a dwindling population. But surely we do not expect that position to continue? Do we not expect that, with the introduction of industry, the rural population will increase? No matter what the Minister says subsidies are being given to various things and I do not see why we should not continue this subsidy for the railways. Let it be used to lower fares and freight rates and thus attract more passengers and more business.

Before CIE took over the canals, I understand the canals were able to pay a small dividend, but immediately they were taken over they lost money year after year. Did it ever strike the Minister that the gentlemen out looking for business might have attracted business from the canals on to the roads? It would be no harm if the Minister made inquiries in that regard. When CIE took over the buses here in Dublin, they made so much money in the first two years that they thought that was the service that would pay. Their idea was to get rid of the railways and get the traffic on the roads. Does the Minister not realise that it would take from 50 to 100 years before our roads would be suitable for such traffic if we closed our railways? Does he not realise the cost? CIE will not be paying for it, but the general taxpayer will be paying for it. It is immaterial to CIE. Their only concern is to make their services pay before 1964.

The Minister should have another talk with the chairman and members of the board. As I said, I do not know any of them personally. They may be the best in the world, but I do not agree that their policy of closing the railways is a good one. Millions have been invested in the railways. Even though railways are closed, the lines should not be torn up, as was done in the case of the Waterford-Tramore railway. If these railways are ever required again, they will have to be rebuilt. It would not cost much to leave them and keep them in repair. We look forward to an improvement in our economic position and an increase in population. We look forward to full employment. When that comes, the railways will be even more useful than lorries or buses.

Quite a number of statistics have been quoted by the Minister. We should ask ourselves the question: "Who is losing employment in CIE?" Is it not the ordinary worker, the small man, the man who cannot detend himself, the man who is rearing a large family? That is a very bad policy for anyone to introduce. Is it not possible to modernise the railways?

When speaking on this matter previously, I mentioned that the buses and trains were running in competition. The Minister told me I was exaggerating. Let us take a timetable and we see on it that there are buses from Dublin to Galway, Limerick, Cork, Waterford and Wexford. At the same time, you have trains going to those places. Why not integrate the services by using buses to bring passengers to the railways? I am sure the gentlemen in Kingsbridge, who are wonder workers in the eyes of the Minister, would consider some such proposal instead of tearing up the railways.

I remember, as a member of Dublin Corporation, going on a deputation to the predecessor of the present chairman of CIE. My impression of some of the gentlemen I met there was very poor. When we looked for a weekly ticket for workmen in the areas to which we had to send people out to be housed—areas such as Finglas and Ballyfermot — the then chairman of CIE said: "Ah, how do we know whether they are work people or not? They may be going in to Mass to the city of Dublin." What can you expect when you get an answer like that? Has there been any move by CIE to provide a ferry service for heavy lorries on the railway lines in the same way as people travelling by sea now run their cars on and off the deck? Has anything like that been suggested? Apparently there has been no suggestion of modernisation at all. The policy seems to be to tear everying up. The railways cost millions. The policy is to tear those millions up and substitute a service giving less employment, but a service which will make more money, without advertence to the toll on the roads, without considering that it will be anything up to 100 years before our roads will be suitable to take this increased volume of heavy traffic.

I appeal to the Minister to consider the position. He has given facts and figures in answer to other Deputies. Figures! One can prove black is white by statistics. I say that will not do. We must be human in our approach. We must come down to matters of fact. Deputy O'Connor in the Minister's Party made, I thought, the best speech I have heard on this matter. To paraphrase, he said: "Let us come together; let us see what we can do with what we have; let us hold the railways, if we can, rather than tear them up." That is what I, too, suggest the Minister should do. Judging by what he has said this evening, he intends to agree all along the line with CIE in their policy with regard to the railways: tear them up. In a very short time, we will have nothing left of our railway system except what is left in the Beddy Report.

Did the Deputy read the Beddy Report?

I would not mention it if I had not read it. I did not interrupt the Minister. I heard the Minister say that the substitute bus service from Waterford to Tramore was better than the railway service because the buses brought the people down to the shore. That is not the fact. The buses bring the people to the Railway Square. I do not talk about what I do not know, but the Minister did in that particular reference. What I have to say I am saying in the national interest. I do not represent a constituency in which there are railways. I have no axe to grind. I have nobody belonging to me working on the railways. I speak in the national interest and I should like the Minister to remember that.

The Minister said railways are out of date. He compared this country, with its 2,800,000 population, with countries like France, Belgium and the Netherlands. These comparisons are useless. We should work for ourselves in the national interest, in the interest of our people. The only people who will suffer by the closing of the railways are the ordinary workers whose numbers will be reduced. That will not be in the interests of the country. That might eventually be the cause of people looking forward to another system, a despicable system to some of us. We do not want anything like that to happen. We want the ordinary worker to be treated in the same way as the highest. I think the Minister knows what I mean. I need not explain further.

It is true that some of the railways are not paying. They are not paying because the country is denuded of population through emigration. There is emigration because we cannot supply work for our people. But is there any real reason why the railways should be torn up and sold for scrap? Why not leave them until such time as our population increases and things improve? We will then have people to travel by rail and goods to transport by rail.

We have failed lamentably to decentralise industry. There has been no comprehensive scheme—rather has it been a haphazard one. The country should be considered as a unit and those who want to establish industries here, with the aid of grant and subsidy from the State, should be told where to site those industries. At the moment they can start where they like. That is not in the interests of the rural areas. There is no rationalisation of industry. In a small town, in which I worked for years, there was just one industry, employing some 35 people. It was a flour milling industry. It is now being closed.

I do not think that matter arises relevantly.

Perhaps not. I merely mention it to show that there is no comprehensive decentralisation of industry. I give it as an example. If there were decentralisation, the position in the rural areas would be different. If people are not willing to site industries in these areas, then the responsible Government Department should do so, put a representative in it, and hand it over to private enterprise to run. If necessary, the operatives could be sent away to be trained outside.

I quite understand the position of the railways. I quite understand our low population. I quite realise that there are buses and cars on the roads. I quite realise that cars are coming on to the roads in ever-increasing numbers. I quite understand that there is a difficulty in getting passenger and goods traffic for the railways. Surely if a subsidy were given in order to lower fares and reduce freight charges, that would provide an incentive to people to use the railways? I suggest the Minister ought to consider that.

With regard to safety on the roads, I cannot understand the Minister's remarks at all. Our roads are not suitable at the moment for heavy traffic. Consider the cost of making the roads suitable. Yet CIE are tearing up the railway lines, railway lines which could be used to ferry heavy lorries from one place to another. In that way, a lorry going to the Midlands could entrain at Kingsbridge and be ferried to the nearest railway station to its ultimate destination. It would then have to travel a distance of, perhaps, only ten or 15 miles as against tearing up the road from Dublin right down to the Midlands, making the maintenance of the roads so much more costly.

Debate adjourned.