I regret that the Minister for Industry and Commerce, who is in charge of this Bill, is at present engaged in the other House and will not be able to attend. The Bill, which I am sure all Senators have read, deals with the Dublin and Blessington Steam Tramway. The position with regard to that company is: there was £97,070 capital subscribed. Of this, £40,000, having interest at 5 per cent., was guaranteed by certain baronies in County Dublin and County Wicklow. The remainder of the shares were not guaranteed and they are valueless. Certain baronies in County Dublin and County Wicklow which put up this money were recouped by the State half the sums paid by them in respect of guaranteed dividend to a sum not exceeding 2 per cent., which meant a State charge of £800. Owing to the uneconomic nature of the tramway undertaking, the charge to the State amounted to £800 a year and that has had to be paid for many years.
The State liability only continues so long as the tramway company is maintained in working order and the loss for the past three years has worked out at £7,000 per annum. Most people will agree, I think, that the tramway service there is no longer the necessity that it was. Owing to the development of bus traffic and other transport facilities in that area, there is not the need for the tramway service that was present when the undertaking was established.
The proposal now is that the four thousand shares which were issued at £10 each should be taken over at an agreed price. Following certain negotiations, the price for the guaranteed shares was fixed at £5 10s. This will mean the raising of a loan of £22,000. The amount will be raised from the Commissioners of Public Works for a period of 20 years, 5¾ per cent. interest for redemption. The contribution from the Local Taxation Account, which amounts to £1,900 per annum, and which is a charge on this account, would undoubtedly be increased considerably if the line were continued. The proposal is that this amount will be continued as a contribution to the sum necessary for the wiping out of the liability in connection with the guaranteed shares, and other consequential liabilities of the concern. The Government contribution of £800 will cease on the closing of the line. County Wicklow will continue to make its present contribution, but the contribution will meet the instalments due by the guaranteeing areas in that county, so that they will have to pay nothing in excess of what they are at present paying. The position with regard to Dublin will be that from the closing of the line the contributions, starting at £465 in the first year, will gradually diminish until in the eighth year £72 5s. Od. will have to be paid. The contribution from the Local Taxation Account will decrease until in the twentieth year the amount paid will be £1,163 5s. Od., after which no further payment will be made. A committee of management is being set up which will continue to administer the affairs of the concern until all the liability is liquidated. Under one of the sections of the Bill, it is proposed to compensate the servants of the company under the provisions of the Railways Act of 1924, and the liability in this respect will be met by rate. The assets will be put on the market and disposed of, I suppose, as scrap. The amount realised from sale of the assets will go in the proportion of two-thirds to Dublin and one-third to County Wicklow. I think it will be generally agreed that it is desirable that this steam tramway undertaking should be wound up. The State is taking the best means available to liquidate the assets, but it must take responsibility to deal with the employees as equitably as possible under the Railways Act, and generally to get the whole position cleared and the line removed. If there are any questions to be put I shall bring them before the Minister.