Dáil Éireann - Volume 319 - 20 March, 1980

Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - CIE Rolling Stock.

11. Mr. Deasy asked the Minister for Transport if he will outline details of the proposals to provide new rolling stock [304] for the railways in view of the recent statement by the general manager of Córas Iompair Éireann.

13. Mr. Deasy asked the Minister for Transport if he will outline Córas Iompair Éireann's plans for the building of passenger railway carriages, and if it is the company's intention to engage a foreign firm for this work.

14. Mr. Deasy asked the Minister for Transport if his attention has been drawn to the report that CIE have plans to engage a German firm to build railway passenger carriages at the Inchicore Works, Dublin, which is causing grave concern amongst the company work force and if he will make a statement clarifying the matter.

Mr. Killilea: With the permission of the Ceann Comhairle, I propose taking Questions Nos. 11, 13 and 14 together.

The Government decision, announced on 31 May 1979, in favour of the electrification of the Howth-Bray suburban rail services covered the provision of new rolling stock for those services.

CIE have also submitted to my Department proposals for the acquisition of 100 new mainline coaches, the purpose of which is to extend the use of modern air-conditioned coaches to all basic mainline week-day services.

The CIE plans for the acquisition of new rolling stock envisage the establishment of a new coach building industry at Inchicore by a German firm. This project also envisages further substantial orders by CIE for rolling stock in the period up to 1990 and beyond.

The proposals for the acquisition of new mainline rolling stock and for the establishment of a rail coach building industry to supply CIE's rolling stock requirements are being examined in the context of the study of CIE which is being carried out with the assistance of a firm of management consultants. The report of the Transport Consultative Commission on passenger transport in Dublin will also have a bearing on the matter in so far as CIE's requirements for rolling stock in connection with [305] possible extensions of the Dublin suburban rail services are concerned.

As regards the industrial relations aspects of the proposal to establish a rail coach building industry at Inchicore, I understand that CIE are in discussion with the Irish Congress of Trade Unions in the matter.

Mr. Deasy: May I ask why a German coach building firm have been brought in to build passenger carriages for CIE when the staff at Inchicore feel they are perfectly competent to do the work?

Mr. Killilea: What Deputy Deasy states is not exactly the situation. Under CIE's proposals it is envisaged that a German firm, Linke Hoffman Busche, will establish a rail coach building industry at Inchicore to supply CIE's requirements both for mainline and suburban rolling stock. The proposed agreement between CIE and Linke Hoffman Busche is on the basis of an initial order by CIE for 42 coaches for the electrification of the Howth-Bray line. CIE envisage the link up with the German firm as a singular proposal. There are other options as well which the Government will consider in time. I want to emphasise that CIE feel they have not the capacity themselves to build the type of new modern coaches which would be required.

Mr. Deasy: Is the Minister aware that CIE have a very unfortunate history when it comes to making contracts with foreign firms to build equipment for buses or for rail? The staff at Inchicore Works are adamant, despite what the Minister says, that they are quite able to build the rolling stock in question, as they build all the other rolling stock for CIE. They have built the rolling stock which is in operation at present for passenger carriages, but they have not been allowed to build it for four or five years.

Mr. Briscoe: Was it not Fine Gael who closed the works in Inchicore?

Mr. Deasy: I should like the Minister to comment.

[306] Mr. Killilea: I have given the Deputy the facts.

Mr. Deasy: Does the Minister say they are not competent?

Mr. Killilea: The management of CIE claim that, due to the sophistication of this new equipment, they may not be capable of providing them. It is they who have made this proposal. One of the conditions of the draft agreement between CIE and LHB is that, in recruiting workers for the new factory, LHB should give preference as far as is possible to CIE staff seeking employment with them. I would not push that case for the moment, as CIE and the Irish Congress of Trade Unions are meeting on the matter and may be able to resolve current difficulties. The Government have made a commitment to spend £46 million on the Howth/Bray line and it is up to CIE to bring forward proposals to implement that.

Mr. B. Desmond: Has any Government decision been taken for the provision of basic capital to CIE for the construction of conventional rolling stock and rail coaches, leaving aside the electrification proposal which is an entirely different matter? Is the Minister aware that with the existing carriages the bogeys will go in one direction and the passengers in another? As the Minister is aware they are not fit for the carriage of cattle. CIE cannot operate them. When will the Minister give them £10 million or £15 million to buy conventional carriages? That is all they need.

Mr. Killilea: Deputy Desmond is saying he would pre-empt the negotiations between CIE and the firm in question, and ask us to go into the open market and buy those carriages, and import them instead of making them here. I note with interest the statement Deputy Desmond made in one of the papers. He said vandalism played a major part particularly on the line in question. I absolutely agree that the vandalism and abuse of CIE property are a scandal.

[307] Mr. B. Desmond: If I might wade through the Minister's effusiveness, is he aware that CIE require urgently a decision by the Government to give them a capital allocation for the construction by CIE——

Mr. Killilea: That decision has been made. I will give the Deputy the text of the Government statement if the Deputy wants it. I do not want to waste the time of this House. The Government have made a commitment for £46 million.

Mr. B. Desmond: May I ask the Minister——

Mr. Killilea: The Deputy would be far better off speaking to the Irish Congress of Trade Unions and trying to persuade them to allow CIE to bring forward proposals, whether they be these proposals or others, to the Government so that we can implement the spending of the £46 million.

Mr. Cluskey: On a point of order, would the Chair exercise his authority over the Minister's interruptions of supplementary question.

Mr. Mitchell: I should like to bring the Minister back——

Mr. Flynn: Deputy Cluskey does not like the truth.

Mr. Cluskey: In fairness to the Deputy, I do not get much of it from over there.

Mr. Flynn: The Deputy is getting it now.

Mr. Mitchell: I should like to bring the Minister back to the situation at the Inchicore Works. Are the Government prepared to abdicate their responsibilities for deciding on a matter of fundamental policy such as the selling off of a public enterprise by CIE to a private enterprise?

[308] Had the Government any role in that decision? Is the Minister aware that the facts quoted by him in relation to the skills available at the Inchicore Works are totally at variance with the truth? The fact is that the Inchicore Works have been building for the past 150 years all rail and coach work generally. Is the Minister aware that this very issue is likely to give rise to a national strike in the next few weeks? In the light of those facts would he say what action he is prepared to take to guarantee the future of the Inchicore Works?

Mr. Killilea: I regret the tone of the Deputy's question in that he suggests we are looking forward to a national strike on the issue. Let me emphasise again, so that it will be very clear, that this proposal is but one of several that the Government will have to consider when the whole programme is put before them. The Government are not committed to any single one. We have said categorically that £46 million will be spent and CIE have been asked to give us their proposals, not only that one but others as well to create this rolling stock.

Mr. Mitchell: Is the Minister saying that the Government will ultimately decide whether or not public enterprise is to be——

Mr. Killilea: The Government will make a decision.

Mr. Mitchell: Is the Minister aware of the very bad precedent in this respect when CIE sold off the bus building industry to Van Hool-McArdle and then it folded up?

An Ceann Comhairle: Will the Deputy ask a question?

(Interruptions.)

Mr. Killilea: That is not a question; that is an allegation.

Mr. B. Desmond: What are the components of £46 million allocated by the [309] Government to CIE? Is the Minister aware that the bulk of that money relates to the construction of permanent way and electrification and that the money I am talking about and for which CIE are screaming is money for the construction of carriages and the purchase of carriages? Can we get that through to the Minister?

An Ceann Comhairle: That is a statement.

Mr. B. Desmond: They want to buy a few carriages to run the services.

Mr. Killilea: How could anybody reply to a statement like that?

Mr. B. Desmond: But it is true.

Mr. Killilea: Why ask me the question if you know the answer?

Mr. B. Desmond: The Minister has been bluffing for half an hour.

Mr. Killilea: I am not; the Deputy is bluffing.

(Interruptions.)

Mr. O'Keeffe: When will a decision be made by the Government regarding the building of these coaches and by whom will they be built?

Mr. Killilea: We hope the decision will be made quite soon. When all the proposals are before the Government they will then decide.

Mr. O'Keeffe: Can the Minister give any indication when a decision will be made?

Mr. Killilea: How can I give an indication? As we stand, CIE and the trade unions are still negotiating.

Mr. O'Keeffe: It could be years?

Mr. Killilea: No, it will not be years. Let me emphasise that. If there is not a conclusion to the negotiations [310] the Government will have to make a decision to continue to spend the money on the electrification of the suburban railways.

Mr. Mitchell: I wish to give notice that I intend to raise, with the permission of the Ceann Comhairle, this matter on the Adjournment in view of the very unsatisfactory nature of the Minister's reply.

Mr. Killilea: I do not think that it was very unsatisfactory.

An Ceann Comhairle: I shall communicate with the Deputy.

12. Mr. Deasy asked the Minister for Transport if he will make a statement on the safety of the railway rolling stock owned by CIE in view of comments by the chairman of CIE that Dublin suburban railway services may have to be cut by 50 per cent due to the poor condition of existing rolling stock.

Mr. Killilea: I have been informed by CIE that railway rolling stock is inspected regularly as part of the board's planned maintenance procedures and that vehicles found to require attention for safety reasons are immediately withdrawn from service for repair. I have been assured by the board that in no circumstances are unsafe carriages allowed to operate.

Mr. B. Desmond: Is the Minister aware that his immediate predecessor was shown photographs, brought through the CIE rolling stock repair shed and that this stock was shown to the Minister as being in a highly dangerous and disastrous state and that the Minister's predecessor freely acknowledged that the rolling stock was in a highly dangerous condition? There are photographs available which I can produce to the Minister if he wants them. Would the Minister not comment?

Mr. Killilea: I would comment in this way: CIE will not compromise on safety precautions and the public can rest assured of that.

[311] Mr. B. Desmond: Is the Minister not aware that the chairman of the CIE board and his senior engineering rail operatives and rolling stock staff showed the Minister the rolling stock and bogeys underneath and said that if it was required to run this stock at more than 30 mile an hour it was liable to go in one direction and the passengers to go in another.

Mr. Killilea: I should like the Deputy to back that up in a written statement to me.

Mr. B. Desmond: I am a member of the Joint Committee on State-sponsored Bodies——

An Ceann Comhairle: We are not having any further questions.

Mr. Killilea: The Deputy is a great help to CIE.

Mr. B. Desmond: The stuff is falling apart.

Mr. O'Keeffe: Arising out of the reference to safety, is the Minister aware that up to ten years ago there was not a single farepaying passenger either killed or seriously injured on our Irish railways since the foundation of the State and that in the last ten years there have been five separate accidents involving death or serious injury?

Mr. Killilea: I am well aware of that. Is the Deputy stating that the rolling stock was at fault?

Mr. O'Keeffe: I am not saying what was at fault.

Mr. Killilea: Then why are you making such allegations?

(Interruptions.)

Mr. Bruton: It is up to the Minister to find out what was at fault.

Mr. Killilea: There are inquiries, as the Deputy is well aware. I am surprised at Deputy O'Keeffe, a legal man.

[312] Mr. O'Keeffe: How does the Minister justify the fact that there have been five serious accidents in the last ten years?

Mr. Killilea: How can the Deputy justify the way he is talking? I can justify what I said in reference to rolling stock.

(Interruptions.)

An Ceann Comhairle: If we do not have order in the manner of asking and answering supplementary questions, I shall adjourn the House until 3.30 p.m. Either we make progress or we do not.