asked the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs when it is proposed to install the automatic telephone system in County Mayo; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Mayo Telephone Automatisation.
The primary centre in the telephone automatisation plan for County Mayo is at Castlebar. This will be the automanual exchange to which the trunk routes serving the area will be connected. Subscribers connected to other automatic exchanges in the county who require calls which cannot be connected automatically — for example "personal" calls and calls to manual exchanges—will be served by the operators at Castlebar. The plans for the new exchange building have had to be revised to provide for increased accommodation requirements and it is understood that the Commissioners of Public Works estimate that the building will be completed late in 1971 or early in 1972. Installation of the exchange equipment will take twelve to fifteen months. It is expected that automatic exchanges at Ballina, Claremorris, Ballyhaunis and Ballinrobe will be brought into service shortly after the Castlebar automanual exchange is opened. It would be premature at this stage to forecast when the remaining exchanges in County Mayo will be converted to automatic working.
Is the Minister aware that a call to the exchange may on occasion take up to a quarter of an hour or half an hour, the distance involved being seven or eight miles? I understand that is due mainly to the fact that there are not enough trunk lines. Surely it should be possible to reduce the time over such a short distance? Is the Minister further aware that the position is aggravated in the summer months because of the influx of tourists? They complain very bitterly about the delay in making telephone calls.
We cannot have a speech on this question.
I am not trying to make a speech.
The Deputy is making a good effort.
Some of the delays may have arisen because of an insufficiency of circuits. The Deputy knows a cable is being laid at the moment through Ballina and Athlone to serve a number of western towns. That will improve the service. Last summer the position was aggravated because of the number of tourists and holidaymakers who made trunk calls between the hours of eight o'clock and 12 o'clock. There was an all-time record number of calls and that naturally created difficulties. We would not, in the ordinary way, provide staff suffi-cient to deal with the very large exceptional number of calls due to the unique summer weather. That was part of the difficulty we experienced last summer.
I want to thank the Minister for his courtesy, at least.