Dáil Éireann - Volume 184 - 26 October, 1960

Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Closing of Cork Railways.

47. Mr. M.P. Murphy asked the Minister for Transport and Power in what way the requirements of the Transport Act, 1958 were carried out by Córas Iompair Éireann regarding the possibility of securing increased traffic on the Cork railway line which it is proposed to close down.

Mr. Childers: I am informed by Córas Iompair Éireann that before deciding to terminate rail services on the West Cork line they satisfied themselves that the operation of the services had been uneconomic and that there was no prospect of their continued operation being economic within a reasonable period. In so doing, the Board complied fully with the requirements of Section 18 of the Transport Act, 1958. It is a matter for the Board to decide the means by which they should give effect to the statutory requirements and I have no reason to believe that they failed to consider any material factor or any prospect of additional traffic.

Mr. M.P. Murphy: Will the Minister indicate the nature of the queries made by the Board in so far as meeting the requirements of Section 18 of the Transport Act is concerned? Further, will he not agree that the Transport Act imposed upon the Board the obligation of inquiring exhaustively as to the possibilities of [39] securing increased traffic for any line proposed to be closed down? With respect, I must say the Minister has not actually answered the question put to him.

Mr. Childers: I am satisfied the Board made proper use of the powers they had under Section 18 of the 1958 Transport Act.

Mr. M.P. Murphy: Will the Minister not agree that widespread representations have been made by all public bodies in the area to have this question reconsidered?

An Ceann Comhairle: The Deputy asked a number of these questions when he was addressing the Taoiseach.

Mr. M.P. Murphy: I agree, a Cheann Comhairle, but would the Minister not agree that within the Board itself, there was a strong body of feeling that the West Cork line should not be closed down? Surely that body of opinion, the fact that the Board of C.I.E. are far from unanimous in regard to the closing down of the West Cork line, is sufficient to warrant another investigation? The Minister must also have regard to the fact that the personnel of the Board were appointed by himself.

Mr. Childers: In reply to the Deputy, I have no such information. The Board act according to their statutory functions, and rumours of the kind suggested by the Deputy have no bearing on their decision.

Mr. M.P. Murphy: But surely the Minister——

An Ceann Comhairle: I cannot allow this to continue here for ever. I am calling Question No. 48.

Mr. M.P. Murphy: With all respect, Sir, you are concerned yourself with the West Clare railway.

Mr. MacEntee: Does the Deputy travel by the West Cork railway?

An Ceann Comhairle: Question 48.

48. Mr. M.P. Murphy asked the [40] Minister for Transport and Power the amount of the deficit on the Cork railway system, proposed to be closed down, for the year ended 30th September, 1960, or at the latest available date, and the general deficit on the remainder of the railway system operated by Córas Iompair Éireann.

Mr. Childers: The Deputy will find from the report and accounts of C.I.E. for the year ended 31st March, 1960, which was presented to the Oireachtas on 31st August, 1960, that the total working deficit on the rail services for that year was £558,600. Particulars for a later period are not available in my Department, but C.I.E. have indicated that the out-of-pocket expenditure on the West Cork railway exceeds the revenue by £56,000 per annum; this figure is arrived at before charging fixed expenses, e.g. contribution to workshop, administration and head offices expenses, which are estimated to amount to £22,000 per annum.

I should make it clear that the decision as to the closing of the West Cork railway line is, subject to the provisions of the Transport Act, 1958, the sole responsibility of C.I.E., and that I have no statutory function in the matter.

Mr. M.P. Murphy: Will the Minister not agree that the loss on the West Cork line represents no more than 13 per cent. of the total loss on the railway system for the past financial year? If it is justifiable for the Minister and a State-sponsored body to close down the West Cork line, surely he will agree it is equally justifiable to close down a number of other lines, which are responsible for the remaining 87 per cent. of the £558,000 loss?

An Ceann Comhairle: Question No. 49.

Donnchadh Ó Briain: Why does the Deputy not ask the people to use the line?

Mr. Casey: Would the Minister like to elaborate on the statement he made in Cork that 15 extra vehicles would meet the needs of all transportation [41] in the area when this line closes down?

Mr. Smith: Not at Question Time.

49. Mr. Wycherley asked the Minister for Transport and Power if, in view of the unsettled world conditions and the danger of a scarcity of oil in the event of a crisis, Córas Iompair Éireann have considered whether it would be more advisable to maintain a limited railway service to West Cork rather than to have a complete close-down of the present railway service.

Mr. Childers: I am not aware if C.I.E. took the consideration mentioned by the Deputy into account in arriving at their decision in this matter. The Deputy will, however, appreciate that as the West Cork section is completely dieselised, it would not necessarily be more immune to the effects of a scarcity of oil than road transport in the area.

I should make it clear that the decision as to the closing of the West Cork railway line is, subject to the provisions of the Transport Act, 1958, the sole responsibility of C.I.E., and that I have no statutory function in the matter.

Mr. Wycherley: Is the Minister aware that 100 miles of the roads from Cork to West Cork are in an unfit condition to take extra traffic and that it will take £1,500,000 to put them into a suitable state to carry extra traffic? Would the Minister consider pressing C.I.E. to defer the closing of the West Cork railway line until a road is provided by the Department of Local Government and Cork County Council?

Mr. Childers: In reply to the Deputy, all those matters have been taken into account by C.I.E. in the discharge of their duties. The Deputy's supplementary question did not refer to the matters contained in his original question. In that he spoke about a crisis and scarcity of oil, which has nothing whatever to do with the condition of the roads.

Mr. Wycherley: In reply to the Minister, if a scarcity of oil occurs, a [42] diesel train could be kept going for years on the amount of oil in the country.