I propose to take Questions Nos. 439 to 441, inclusive, together.
Iarnród Éireann has statutory responsibility for ensuring that all the safety requirements of the Transport Acts and the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act are complied with on its railway. I am assured by the company that all of its services between Kildare and Dublin comply with all such requirements. I have advised the House on several previous occasions that there are no safety standards in existence at present at national or EU level in regard to the maximum number of passengers permitted on trains. Iarnród Éireann has assured me that crowding on some of its services, principally at peak travel times, does not compromise safety. However, I am very much aware of the discomfort and inconvenience crowding causes to passengers. The crowding problems experienced at peak travel times, particularly on suburban services, has developed because of the significant increase in passenger numbers using such services in recent years.
In order to address this growth in traffic, significant funding has been, and continues to be, made available by Government to Iarnród Éireann for investment to improve the safety of the network, increase the passenger capacity of the system and improve the quality, reliability and speed of services. Iarnród Éireann has ordered 80 diesel rail cars for use on suburban services and all of these rail cars should be in service by January 2004. This new rolling stock will increase the available capacity to deal with peak periods and should help to alleviate the present crowding difficulties, including on the Kildare routes. However, pending this increase in capacity, the railway inspectorate of my Department continues to monitor developments in regard to crowding on trains. The inspectorate has been in contact with Iarnród Éireann on a number of occasions drawing its attention to the importance of keeping the issue of crowding under review.
In addition, I intend to bring forward an amendment on Report Stage of the Railway Safety Bill to provide the proposed railway safety commission with the power to make regulations to address the problem of crowding on trains.
Question No. 442 answered with Question No. 410.