Seanad Éireann - Volume 95 - 16 July, 1981
Transport Bill, 1981: Second Stage.
Question proposed: “That the Bill be now read a Second Time”.
Minister for Transport (Mr. Cooney) Patrick M. Cooney
Minister for Transport (Mr. Cooney): The purpose of this Bill is threefold: first, to extend the limit on CIE's borrowing powers for capital purposes, secondly, to extend the limit on the board's temporary borrowing powers and, thirdly, to extend the powers of guarantee of the Minister for Finance in relation to borrowings or contract arrangements for the provision of goods and services entered into by CIE.
CIE's capital expenditure is financed from the board's internal resources, mainly depreciation provisions, and from borrowings either from the Exchequer or from such outside sources as may be found attractive. At present, the aggregate amount of CIE's capital borrowings at any one time may not exceed £55 million. CIE have now reached the limit of their capital borrowing powers, most of the outstanding borrowings being represented by Exchequer capital advances on which interest is paid by CIE.
It is, therefore, essential to extend CIE's capital borrowing authority to enable the board to proceed with a number of capital projects and to undertake any new projects which may be approved.
The major projects which the board have in hands at present are the electrification  of the Howth-Bray suburban rail service, the acquisition of 124 mainline carriage units and the renewal of the board's urban and provincial bus fleets. There is also, of course, the provision of a commuter rail service linking May-nooth and intermediate points with Connolly Station, but the provision of this service, which is scheduled to commence operations in a few months, does not require large scale capital investment at this stage.
The electrification of the Howth-Bray suburban service will, on its introduction in 1983, represent a major improvement in public transport services for people on the eastern side of the city. Since the late sixties passenger demand on the Dublin suburban rail services has been increasing—daily carryings on the Howth-Bray section have increased from about 12,500 in 1970 to 34,500 in 1980. The services are at present operated with dieselhauled refurbished carriages which are due for replacement. In the consideration of the CIE proposal for electrification, account was taken of the need to upgrade the existing service in order to attract as many passengers as possible and so make the maximum contribution to the relief of traffic congestion. Considerations which favoured electrification were the desirability of achieving a reduction in dependence on oil, and the environmental benefits offered by an electric system which is pollution free and less noisy than a diesel system.
The electrification project, on which over 200 people are at present employed, is now nearing the halfway stage. It involves the provision of an electrical supply along the line, the provision of new signalling and depot facilities, the opening of two new stations at Sandymount and Salthill and the acquisition of new rolling stock specially designed for commuter needs. The new service will bring about a substantial improvement in the existing service in terms of frequency, speed and passenger comfort. Day-long services will be provided, serving 25 stations on the line, with trains operating at five minute intervals during peak periods reducing to 15 minutes off peak. It is intended also to extend the catchment  area of the railway line by the provision of feeder bus services to selected stations. CIE estimate that by 1985 passenger numbers will have increased from the current average of 34,500 per day to about 80,000 per day.
Major improvements of this nature cannot be made without substantial capital investment and in the case of the Howth/Bray electrification scheme the latest estimate of capital cost, largely based on contracts already placed, now stands at £66.4 million at April 1981 prices. This represents a substantial increase on the estimate available at the time the project was approved, which amounted to £46 million approximately at early 1979 prices. While there have been, of course, inevitable variations between actual contract prices and the indicative pre-contract estimates on which the original costings were based, the increase in the capital cost is very substantially attributable to the effects of inflation and currency fluctuations. I should add that it is proposed, in accordance with normal practice, to capitalise interest charges until the project is completed, after which interest will be charged to the revenue account. The total amount of capitalised interest charges is estimated at £16 million at current prices.
I am particularly anxious to ensure that with this project every effort is made to maximise the Irish input of components and services. So far, I am glad to say, it has proved possible to ensure that, apart from the rolling stock, over 50 per cent of the remaining requirements for materials and services is coming from Irish sources.
The second major railway project at present on hands is the provision of new carriages for mainline passenger services. Approval was given earlier this year for the acquisition of 124 mainline carriage units, comprising 94 standard carriages, 15 catering cars and 15 generator vans, to be assembled at the Inchicore works in Dublin. These carriages are needed to enable CIE to provide mainline rail facilities of an acceptable standard of comfort and convenience for all rail passengers. It is expected that over the life of the project employment will be provided at  the Inchicore works for an average of 165 men. Every effort will be made to ensure that the maximum possible use will be made of Irish sub-contractors for the supply of goods and services and that the Irish input generally will be maximised. Planning work on the project has commenced and it is hoped that the first carriages will be available to be put into service in 1983. The capital cost of the project is estimated at about £36 million, exclusive of VAT.
The third major item in CIE's capital programme at present is the renewal of the board's city and provincial bus fleets. The renewal programme had earlier fallen into arrears because of the time lag between the termination in 1977 of CIE's arrangements for the supply of buses with Van Hool McArdle and the establishment of the new Bombardier bus building factory at Shannon. The new factory, at which production commenced last August, is now giving valuable employment to some 300 people. CIE have already taken delivery of 20 single-deck buses for use on the provincial services, 30 coaches for the board's tour operations and the first of the 135 doubledeck buses to be delivered this year for use in the Dublin city area. There have been some initial teething problems with the new buses but I understand that these are relatively minor and are being quickly resolved. Because of the backlog in CIE's bus replacement programme the board's requirement for new buses for a few years will be unusually high. The total capital allocation for new buses in CIE's capital programme for 1981 is £18.5 million and CIE's forecasts for the years immediately ahead envisage expenditure continuing at a high level.
The three projects which I have mentioned, combined with the board's normal capital programme, clearly require a substantial revision of the limit applicable to CIE's capital borrowing as the board's depreciation provisions would fall far short of the expenditure involved. It has, therefore, been decided to set a new limit of £180 million in respect of capital borrowings that is an increase of £125 million on the existing limit. In addition the Bill provides for an increase in the limit on  the guarantees which can be given by the Minister for Finance under the State Guarantees (Transport) Acts in respect of contracts for the provision of goods and services entered into by CIE. This will allow greater scope for exploring alternative arrangements for the financing of CIE's programme, for instance, leasing of equipment, which might provide worthwhile opportunities for financing investment in transport.
The increased borrowing and guarantee arrangements provided for in the Bill will enable CIE to proceed with the projects I have mentioned in the years immediately ahead and to undertake any new projects which may be approved. Additional finance may have to be authorised in a few years time and the introduction of the necessary legislation will provide an opportunity for further review of CIE's capital programme by both Houses of the Oireachtas. Furthermore, the intervening period will give time within which consideration of the McKinsey Report on CIE can be completed and a start made on implementing whatever decisions arise from that consideration.
I should make it clear that the Government are very conscious of the necessity for adequate and efficient public transport services for economic and social purposes. It is, of course, essential that these services should be provided in the most cost-effective manner possible, taking account of the social and economic needs of the community as a whole. It is on this basis that the Government will be considering how public transport services can best be organised.
As I indicated at the outset, the present Bill also provides for an increase in CIE's temporary borrowing powers which at present are limited to £5 million under the Transport Act, 1974. This figure is now insufficient in the light of the inflation which has occurred since the 1974 Act was passed. CIE's expenditure on operating account has increased from £65 million in 1973-74 to £200 million in 1980, while the Exchequer subvention increased from £10.75 million to £70 million in the same period. It is proposed, therefore, to increase CIE's temporary  borrowing powers to £20 million so as to provide a safeguard to tide the board over any short-term cash difficulties such as unforeseen losses in revenue or increases in expenditure. The inadequacy of the figure of £5 million has been evident on a number of occasions in recent years and Supplementary Estimates have had to be introduced for CIE at short notice to ensure that the board would have sufficient cash to meet their requirements.
Before concluding I should like to say that while this Bill provides the means for improvement of the facilities available to CIE for the operation of bus and train services, these facilities will not, in themselves, guarantee a service which will meet the needs of the public and on which they can rely. The provision of facilities must be accompanied by the necessary degree of commitment and co-operation by CIE management and staff. In particular, there must be a determined effort by all concerned to avoid the type of disruption of services at present being experienced and which, unfortunately, occurs all too often.
Serious hardship is being caused especially in Dublin to many thousands of citizens. Business in the centre of the city is being adversely affected to a point when the jobs of those working in these businesses are at risk.
I cannot imagine that the strikers and the other CIE workers who will not pass their pickets want deliberately to inflict hardship on fellow citizens or put any of them out of a job, but they must recognise that they are doing both so long as the present strike continues.
In particular I am at a loss to understand why the workers who are not in dispute have failed to answer the call from the Congress of Trade Unions to pass the pickets. I would appeal to them on behalf of all who are suffering through the absence of buses to answer the call of their own congress to go back to work and thereby show solidarity and sympathy with their fellow citizens. By doing so they would also recognise that it is the tax contributions of these citizens now deprived of bus transport that are contributing towards the massive subvention,  currently £74 million, that is keeping CIE workers in their jobs.
The debate in Dáil Éireann on this Bill last week indicated a widespread wish for a fundamental review of CIE and of transport policy generally. This is a matter which is already being pursued in the context of the McKinsey Report on CIE and which will be one of my principal priorities in the months immediately ahead. I commend the Bill to the House.
Ruairí Brugha Ruairí Brugha
Ruairí Brugha: I congratulate the Minister for Transport and wish him well in his office.
It is customary in both Houses generally to welcome provisions for additional capital to our semi-State bodies. On this occasion, while I welcome the proposals from the Minister, I am glad that he referred towards the end of his speech to the disastrous industrial relations situation that exists at present. There is no doubt that the public of Dublin are very tolerant and patient. Time out of number in recent years they have been subjected to a withdrawal of services, disruption of their lives and unemployment caused by the fall-off in business in the city centre.
The Minister mentioned that he cannot imagine that those who will not pass pickets want deliberately to inflict hardship on their fellow citizens, but one must begin, in relation to our transport system, by being critical of both management and labour. One does not have these persistent disputes without some measure of culpability lying on both sides. However, the situation that has come about now is one that calls for total public condemnation. The situation calls for total public condemnation by those of us who are elected representatives. We have a transport system which is being subsidised week by week to the tune of well over £1 million. People whose wages are paid by the taxpayer are holding up progress and in the tourist season giving this country a bad reputation all around the world. The industrial relations system in a large organisation such as CIE is such that a minority can prevent the majority from working. This is totally contrary to democratic practice. We inherited a bad  industrial relations structure which needed to be remedied. The onus in on the trade union leadership and the Government to try to improve that situation.
I welcome the improvements being introduced by CIE. These are parts of continuing proposals and developments over the past few years. I wish that organisation well in their efforts to provide a more adequate and more efficient transport system.
I decry an industrial relations structure which prevents workers and old age pensioners who have the free travel concession from availing of our transport system in Dublin. When a large part of the employment in this company is being paid for directly or substantially subscribed to by the taxpayer, those employees should realise that they have a double obligation. The obligation on any person who is drawing a weekly wage to give the best performance possible is normal in private employment. The obligation on any person in public employment is a dual one to the community as a whole. It is fair to criticise those who withdraw their labour and to refer to the absence of a serious and conscientious approach to their obligations by those who are in public employment.
In conclusion, can the Minister let me know what amount of money is currently being paid by the Exchequer to CIE arising out of the free travel facilities.
Dr. Whitaker Dr. Whitaker
Dr. Whitaker: I fully support what the Minister and Senator Brugha said about the current bus strike in Dublin and, more generally, about the obligations of people in public employment. I should also like to join in welcoming the Minister to the House in a new capacity. Apart from that, I wish to make only two points on this Bill. As the Minister has indicated, quite understandably the Government are not yet ready for a general discussion on transport policy or the finances of CIE. The Government will obviously have to give urgent attention to all the major loss accumulators in the system, particularly CIE and NET, if the appalling state of the public finances revealed in today's paper from the Department of Finance is to be remedied  even over a period of years.
My first point is a minor one. I do not think it is satisfactory drafting that a Bill should appear before us which refers to “the Board” and mentions nowhere, not even in the definitions clause, that the board in question is Córas Iompair Éireann. It may be said not to be formally necessary because earlier Acts have defined the board, but surely it would have been better for clarity's sake to do it again here so that this Bill would be intelligible on its own.
My second point has to do with the absurdity of maintaining the pretence that money provided for CIE for capital purposes is an advance which is repayable and which constitutes a State asset to be set off against State liabilities. The latest published Finance Accounts show at 31 December last over £33 million of repayable advances to CIE under the rubric: Capital Assets of the Exchequer, Account number XXVII. Surely this is self-delusion. Given the mounting scale of losses of CIE now in the run up apparently to £100 million a year, I do not believe the Minister or anybody else entertains the slightest hope that CIE will be able to repay a single penny of previous advances or of any new advances made under this Bill.
Indeed, the nice circumlocution in the Minister's speech about “capitalising the interest charges” shows that they will not even be able to pay the interest not to mention repaying any money. So why not have some realism in this matter? The Minister has a reputation for dislike of humbug. Why not treat all money given to CIE as a non-repayable grant and eliminate these advances, these worthless assets, from the table of Exchequer assets in the finance accounts?
Mr. Lambert Mr. Lambert
Mr. Lambert: I should also like to be recorded as wishing the Minister well in his new portfolio. I have admired his valuable contributions to the debates on many national issues in the past four years. This gives me confidence that he will give his keen attention to all matters concerning transport and particularly to the effects of inflationary costs in the various public services on the competitive  position of Irish industry in general. I might add that his opening statement was reassuring.
As a member of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on State-Sponsored Bodies, the Minister has gained enormous experience of the problems which we face in our economy and the mounting demands which have emerged in the various reports. I hope the Minister will use his influence to ensure that this type of committee will be established on a permanent basis to quell the anxiety of a large section of the public who would wish to see a national approach to our many serious economic problems. The massive borrowings required by State-sponsored bodies, as is evident in the debate already and with CIE today, will need more active monitoring than ever before and such growing subsidies will need continuous analysis by an all-party committee.
During my time in the Seanad I have found that most of the demands for funds for State-sponsored bodies as initiated through legislation are passed with very little adverse comments by politicians. This is because the State-sponsored bodies are large employers throughout the country and inevitably in all parties there is an inherent bias towards the wishful thinking of one's constituents. It is a pity — and this is coming out in the debate today — that the politicians do not fully explain the reasons and these are usually very worthy, for subsidising State-sponsored bodies and that the money granted has to come out of the Exchequer. We fail the PAYE workers in not giving them a full explanation as to the necessity for contributing to our public services through income taxation. I am sure that PAYE workers would have a greater understanding and a greater willingness to pay their portion of the appropriate taxes necessary to subsidise the jobs not only of their colleagues but in some instances of their own jobs if they were better educated to the problems of Exchequer funds.
The joint Oireachtas committee in their various reports have brought a new enlightenment to the programme of financing our State organisations, and in  the case of CIE I am sorry that the McKinsey report has not received adequate debate so far. However, I am glad to have the Minister's reassurance on this. The name McKinsey, which is well known for incisive analysis of an organisation, often puts up emotional barriers before the actual arguments are adequately thought through and deliberated. I have been an admirer of the conscientious manner in which Deputy Reynolds approached the McKinsey Report and has realised the necessity to break down the monolithic structure of CIE. We cannot go on with a blank-cheque situation because in the first place the Government will not stand for it and neither will the taxpayers when they begin to understand the problem, and it is also in the best interest of all workers to understand what our problems are for the economic future.
From all debates both inside and outside this House it is obvious that income restraint is one of our major priorities for survival. We must have this restraint. The necessity for it is obvious also from the economic review published today. The lead must be given by the Government in relation to public sector pay and such capital investment as will follow under this Bill. It is interesting to hear where some of the capital investment is going but it must be seen to produce the returns and the benefits outlined by the Minister. He says that in assessing future capital expenditure and extending borrowing powers under this Bill due consideration must be given to the future structure of CIE. Everyone will agree now that the monopoly of road freight transport must be relaxed. For many years now the Irish Transport and Distribution Association have been making submissions to the previous Minister for Transport and to the Confederation of Irish Industry seeking an end to the CIE monopoly of road freight. On the points raised it is interesting to note that they sought liberalisation in private haulage in making available more licences within the professional standards now set by them. Ninety per cent of all road freight is carried by own-account operators. They represent some 77 per cent of gross national  product, which is an enormous percentage and deserves consideration. It is now fully acknowledged that own-account operators are more efficient than CIE but are unable to carry return loads from delivery points. Twenty per cent of oil energy is used by road freight. In the Irish biscuit industry's case our distribution system covers the entire Twenty-six Counties and all our vehicles are returning to Dublin empty. In addition, we are not permitted to carry other producers' products from Dublin which in many cases would improve our vehicle and output capacity and consequently improve the performance and better utilisation of resources and fuel.
To give the House some indication of the magnitude of what I am talking about, Irish Biscuits' vans travel approximately 1.2 million miles per annum and about half of this is travelled by empty vehicles. We have had many requests to engage in haulage for other companies but are not permitted to accept under present legislation. It is extraordinary in reviewing our whole energy policy that more attention is not given to this aspect of waste within the distribution industry. It is absolutely illogical to allow the existing monopoly to continue in this day and age when everyone is preaching the necessity to conserve fuel. By simple legislation we have the opportunity to improve fuel economy and reduce the number of vehicles on the roads because there would not be the duplication of vans coming and going, returning empty when they could be carrying goods from various destinations and helping some of the industries that are in trouble. This would obviously improve performance, reduce road wear and tear and ease the major impediment of traffic congestion and above all reduce our national oil requirements.
I have purposely given the example of one major Irish industry but if you multiply this across the country amongst all the own-account operators the savings could be enormous. In addition will be the saving on the subsidisation of CIE all of which would reduce the tax implications for the PAYE sector who are so vociferous. We must support our State  bodies and services. Most politicians are ready to do so but they must be ready and willing to explain that the subsidies granted have to be paid by the public in general through taxes. With those reservations I am pleased to support this Bill and I wish the Minister every success in his onerous responsibilities.
Mr. Kilbride Mr. Kilbride
Mr. Kilbride: Initially I would say that this is a Bill coming about as a result of problems over which the previous Government did not have an immense amount of control. The difficulties that the people today experience in consequence of the structure and the widespread operation of CIE are exemplified first by the sight of so many people walking the roads after subscribing substantially through VAT or through other tax channels to the provision of that service. This is not just an annual affair; it is often at least twice annually. That is not something we should have to experience in a free society. In a free society those people who benefit through employment from a national structure like CIE should carry the obligation of providing the service that they are supposed to provide.
It is terrible to think that no matter how far you are from the city of Dublin you find young and old, gentle and simple, condemned to the exercise of thumbing lifts and in many cases not being able to avail themselves of the charity of the many people who would otherwise like to accommodate them. The people in secure employment with CIE have an obligation to the people providing the money to pay them, but they exercise what muscle they can on society as a whole to extract increased benefits, certain facilities or certain accommodation for their union or whatever it may be. They exploit the rest of society and create a problem because of very small differences of opinion as to what may be regarded as a reasonable request from authority, and a proposed remedy may be refused by one or two people. In consequence the whole populace of a city like Dublin are put to walking miles and miles every day for weeks and weeks. With the Senators who have already spoken  and with the rest of the people in this city and country I condemn in the strongest possible way the exercise of the powers that produced this result. People should apply a code which will make the granting of a reasonable request entirely obligatory on those in a position to do so without implication of loss to themselves or to the union.
I welcome the Minister and assure him that on this side of the House we are 100 per cent appreciative of what he has said here today. We hope he will have a successful implementation of this measure to the advantage of the people and of CIE in the very near future.
Professor Murphy Professor Murphy
Professor Murphy: I add my congratulations to the Minister on his translation to the other side of the House and to the Cabinet. Now that I think of it “translation” is a word one uses in the case of bishops who have far greater security of tenure than the Minister is likely to have. Therefore, instead of wishing him ad multos annos it would be more appropriate 2312 to say ad multos menses. We are all struck today by the unreality of these proceedings. We feel like so many Oisíns after the Fianna or like Marius sitting on the ruins of Carthage. I would like to postpone what I have to say to the occasion when the McKinsey Report will surely be discussed in the Seanad. There is a notice to that effect on the Order Paper but, who knows, it may be a swan song so I want to make one or two points.
Of course, I join in deploring the present bus strike in Dublin city. There is nothing easier than to deplore the present bus strike in Dublin city, but I have no intention of joining in the self-righteous chorus of condemnation of the workers. That is much too facile. I simply am not in possession of sufficient facts to make a facile judgment in that regard. Senator Brugha said — and it is partly true — that the cessation of a great urban transport service among other things makes a very bad image conveyed through tourists to people abroad. Perhaps so, but I remind the House that the virtual collapse of the tourist season in high summer in many parts of this country is due to factors far more sinister than a transport  strike in Dublin city. I do not have to spell that out to the Minister.
It is a bad time to be defending CIE. It is a bad time to be defending semi-State bodies. The debacle of Nitrigin Éireann Teoranta which we discussed in this House not so long ago was a godsend to those who were constantly knocking semi-State bodies and advancing the claims of the private sector against the public sector. Nevertheless, it should be pointed out that if morale in CIE is at an all-time low — “on the floor” was the phrase used in the other House — a lot of that is due to factors outside the control of CIE. There is a feeling in CIE management and unions that somehow the McKinsey Report and the suggestion of approval forthcoming for the McKinsey Report is another blow to their morale, so to speak. There is the continual demand of the private sector, not to take over the social services afforded by CIE, not to transport people over the remotely-populated areas, but to pluck out and keep for themselves the lucrative side of CIE practices. In that respect tears did not spring to my eyes when Senator Lambert made his references to the desirability of moving road haulage into private hands.
CIE are further demoralised by the lack of any philosophy of public transport. What are they supposed to be doing? What is the purpose of CIE? The suggestion somehow is that they should not be losing money. They should even be repaying money. Perhaps not from exactly the same points but I go along fully with Senator Whitaker's view that the idea of advancing CIE money which is going to be repaid is absolute humbug. All these things demoralise CIE, and so do the daily reminders of the whole shabbiness and dilapidated state of their rolling stock. Regarding the impression made on tourists, nothing is more calculated to give tourists the impression of a ramshackle Republic than the kind of public vehicles which are now being run into the ground, particularly on some provinicial services.
Since it is fashionable to knock CIE, the public should be made more aware of the fact that Governments in other countries  provide much higher subsidies to their public transport systems than we do, Most of all, in recent times CIE have been demoralised by a particularly cynical attitude on the part of the outgoing administration. It is well known that CIE applied for a hefty increase in prices in their fares because if nothing else their Government subsidy had been effectively and very substantially cut considering the value of the subsidy in real terms and in terms of inflation from year to year. So, their subsidy was cut and they either had to reduce services and/or increase fares, but purely for electoral purposes the outgoing Government would allow them to do neither of these things. It was expedient that increases in CIE fares should not be seen to add to the cost of inflation before the general election. That kind of scurvy treatment surely must have compounded the already bad morale of the company.
I make these points because I think that of all the semi-State companies — and frequently we have occasion to praise the achievements of many of them — the one really on the losing wicket is Córas Iompair Éireann because they cannot make money. There have been some suggestions in the other House that they should somehow capitalise on some of their assets like their splendid Victorian railway stations and the couple of acres here and there but nobody has seriously indicated how this could be done. CIE is a public transport system. We should put it in the context of public transport systems in the rest of the world. In terms of mass urban transport, for example, it is recognised in places as ideologically different as San Francisco and Moscow that the urban masses have the right to cheap and mass transport. Perhaps the Minister would not be too much inclined to take the Moscow model as an example. Nonetheless, they are grossly overcrowded, like sardines bursting out of a tin, but they get there. In most other cities of my acquaintance, certainly in the United States, the price of urban transport is very reasonable, not to say extremely cheap in some places. The one glaring contrast that I notice with our Cork and Dublin city bus services is that you pay a  flat fare in your travels throughout the city. In other words, there is a recognition, whether it is in a Communist country or in a liberal democratic country, that the freedom of the citizen includes the freedom of movement, that the ordinary person has a right to cheap travel.
I know I may well be asked where is the money to come from but, nevertheless, if we are to serve the needs of a growing and young population ever more constantly on the move, we must have a radically different attitude to the whole system of public transport.
Mr. McDonald Mr. McDonald
Mr. McDonald: I wish the Minister well in his new Ministry and in dealing with the Bill before the House he certainly needs luck. I also hope that he will be brave and will take whatever steps are necessary to improve the transport situation. Senators have commented on the present state of play and deplored the fact that so many people are incommoded with the present bus strike. The previous speaker did not want to lay blame on the workers and the people involved.
No commercial undertaking that consistently proved inefficient and lost so much money would last very long after the shareholders caught up with it. I hope, therefore, one of the first tasks the Minister will undertake is to find a completely new board for CIE. It should be possible to find more efficient management. We should have aspirations at least to have an efficient service. The criteria with the semi-State companies of latter years seem to be to have a competition to see which of them will lose the most money to the State. It is difficult, and many people are inclined to knock institutions like CIE and take them all as a body. Nevertheless, when you look at the component parts which the board of CIE govern, you might think there are lots of people who are doing an excellent day's work. I am sure they are doing their best. There is no doubt that some of the services are being improved. If one travels on the railways, for example, one notices that the rolling stock is improving. I suppose it is from the new continous tracks that are being laid over the past few years. These are fabricated and laid down  by highly skilled workers who, I understand, are based in Portlaoise. When one knocks CIE one loses sight of the fact that there are many diligent workers who are doing a good job and who are tarred, unfortunately, with the same brush. There is room for improvement in every public service, and I hope the Minister will seek that. His task should be to find a board and personnel who will be able to provide for the general public the best possible service.
There are two many cynics in this country, I suppose I qualify as one, but I cannot but recall a deputation I was on to Kingsbridge a couple of years ago. We were campaigning to have a bus service arrive in a town in the constituency ten minutes earlier than it operated. The idea was that if it came ten minutes earlier it would catch a train which was on its way to Dublin. It involved the bus starting from the original destination ten minutes earlier, but CIE said that it was a bus depot and a bus service and had nothing to do with the trains.
There are people in CIE who forget about the passengers. The service is there for the public. In flag-carrying institutions, like CIE, they say people are not using the services. People will not use the services unless they are run at a convenient time. This is important. If you look back at the statistics and take the town of Portlaoise four years ago to see how many people commuted to Dublin each day from Portlaoise, you will find the numbers quite small. But eventually the company were prevailed upon to put in an early morning commuter service leaving at 7.30 a.m. I think statistics show that people appreciate and will utilise the services if they are at a convenient time and if they suit the needs of the travelling public. That is the area in which the public transport company should be searching and their sole purpose should be in what way they can enable the public to get to and from their work or recreation.
It should be possible for the company to at least aim at breaking even. It is unacceptable that any public company can continue increasing its debt and its losses year in year out. New ways must  be tried. The public will appreciate an improved service. Also, in this materialistic age, the operatives will have an effect on the public's patronage of the service.
That is why the old traditional courtesy should be part of and expected from the personnel working not only in private companies but in public companies as well. I remember years ago when we used to despatch sugar beet by CIE to Thurles. If a train went through the station five minutes late or five minutes early, the porters would look at their watches and if the train was a couple of minutes off they would change their watches because there was an esprit de corps and they felt the trains could not be wrong. I do not think there is any hope for CIE until a similar kind of spirit is reintroduced. It must start at the very top. Leadership must be given.
I had occasion to write to the Chairman of CIE some years ago after completing a journey to Galway. I complained of the state of the carriages but the man did not even accept that such could be the case at all. If they have the attitude that the company cannot be wrong, how can they see the wood for the trees? The Minister will have to be cruel if he wants to be kind to the travelling public. He must tackle the job with determination to bring about an improvement in the service, not only in the interests of the people who want to travel to their places of work, but in fairness to the taxpayers who should not be asked to share an ever-increasing burden, as seems to be the record over the past few years with some semi-State companies.
I wish the Minister well. I know he has a daunting task before him. I hope that he will be brave enough to take the steps necessary to improve the service. Over the years, every time there was a rationalisation programme carried out in CIE the idea was to slash services, to sell off the rail lines, to curtail station stops. That is not the way to run an efficient service. Improvements can be carried out. In Europe even a trans-continental express stops for one minute sharp at very many stations. The public are quite used to hopping off and the train just goes on if  they are not quick enough to get off and they must then travel on for some more miles. It should be possible in this way to improve the rail service by stopping at stations where there is a demand.
It is only by improving the frequency of the service, the quality and indeed, every aspect, from a human point of view as well as from a purely economic point of view, that CIE will come out on top. Public transport represents something like 7 per cent of the GNP in the entire European Community, while agriculture would represent something like 5.6 per cent. It is, therefore, a very important sector and is given a very minor rating in our order of priorities. This is something we will have to change.
We will have to recognise the value and importance of effective transportation within this country. I do not think that we should run a transport service with tourists in mind. Our own people must come first and they should certainly expect more than they are getting at present. The service is anything but a cheap one. It is possible to compare the prices and rates with anywhere in Europe and there are certainly no bargains attached to it. Nevertheless, there is a sharp shortfall, perhaps in some cases in courtesy and certainly in care. A tremendous public relations job needs to be carried out on CIE. CIE management must share the blame. Occasionally you will see excursions or holiday traffic on 8 December, with the trains packed all the way up to Dublin. I see no reason why, since people will require more space for a day's shopping, an extra coach should not be made available. In my experience no attention is paid to detail. This is a great pity because from my experience the people working for that company are as good as those in any other sector. With proper management, leadership and impetus, that organisation can be transformed and can perform a better and a more caring service for our people and surely also at less cost to the taxpayer than at present. I wish the Minister well and welcome the Bill.
Mícheál Cranitch Mícheál Cranitch
Mícheál Cranitch: I will be very brief because Senators McDonald and Kilbride  have said much of what I had in mind to say today. I commend them for their remarks. They pinpointed the root cause of the evil of this continual disease of strikes. The present bus strike must be condemned by every right minded person. We who are at the moment travelling the length and breadth of the country on the Seanad campaign are hearing remarks such as: “When will a serious attempt be made to dismantle CIE and let private enterprise take over?” People are becoming very impatient and impatience is growing. Unless something is done and sanity returns soon to the minds of those responsible for these strikes, there will be a general revolt and a general demand for a total restructuring of our transport system because people cannot put up with it any longer.
This morning as I was coming into Dublin I saw people putting up their hands looking for lifts, middle-aged people, in particular, elderly people trying to get into town to do a bit of shopping. They have no way of travelling and there is no hope of any settlement of the strike. These things are very disturbing, even in a disturbing age such as this.
So many things can be done in the rail or bus systems to make conditions more attractive for travellers. Senator McDonald referred to timetables and the interest workers had in times gone by in making absolutely sure that timetables were strictly adhered to. They took a pride in it and would be very upset if a train was even half a minute late. I remember the first time I taught in a school near a mainline railway system. One of the excuses made by a child who was late for school one morning was this: “The quarter past eight must have been late this morning, sir.” When the train passed, that was the time to get up. The train was late and therefore everything went wrong. That was the attitude to work and service at that time. Until that attitude returns, we cannot have satisfaction, for management, employers or the public.
I heartily welcome Deputy Cooney back to the Seanad again. In fact, he has returned here already, even though the  election has not taken place. It is lucky for him that he has a State car because if he had to come by bus, he would not be here yet.
Mr. Donnelly Mr. Donnelly
Mr. Donnelly: The Transport Bill should really be called the CIE Bill, because that is the subject matter of the Bill and that is what is dominating our minds. In reality it is a transport problem in the fullest sense. The problems afficting the operation of CIE have to be seen in the context of the transport situation generally. I do not think CIE's performance either in Dublin or nationwide, but particularly in Dublin, can be examined realistically without taking into account the overall traffic situation and the facilities for both public and private transport.
Despite the examination of this subject over a long period, I do not think there is sufficient awareness of the real cost of the chaotic transport situation that exists in Dublin city. Statistics come out from time to time and get a certain amount of publicity, but it would help the whole approach to getting solutions and acceptance of what might be difficult solutions if the real hardship people are putting up with was made clear to the average individual.
There are some hidden costs and some costs that are not hidden involved in the present transport chaos. Public transport goes through the city at what is now calculated as an average three miles per hour. This is something that cannot be tolerated. In itself that gives rise to a lot of costs because it reflects the overall snarled-up traffic situation. Any vehicle that travels at three miles per hour is not operating efficiently. It uses more fuel; it will wear out more quickly, and the individuals concerned and the whole country will be involved in very big expenses. A situation where we would have smooth, free-flowing transport, be it public or private, would have tremendous benefits and savings for our economy. In the present traffic situation in Dublin, there is enormous wastage of fuel and of money spent on maintenance and replacements, because parts wear out quicker than they should because of constant congestion.  These costs are fairly obvious, but there are other costs. There is a loss of time at work, and of time which could be devoted to leisure — to families or to whatever the individuals want to do. Time wasted in a chaotic and inefficient transport system is time for which there is no return and is a huge cost on our society.
There is also the question of health because of pollution. Studies have shown that the incidence of pollution increases the more congestion there is. The slower the traffic moves, the greater the rate of pollution and the longer it lingers in the atmosphere. Over a long period that will cause very serious health problems. The health of people who suffer from respiratory problems is getting worse every year as the congestion problem worsens. There is also the question of stress. People are frustrated by this snarled-up traffic, with no hope of efficient and smooth-flowing access to where they want to go. Studies have shown that stress over a long period is very damaging to certain people, depending on their temperament.
How do you put a cost on all those factors? If you could put a monetary cost on them, then, great as the capital investment in our public transport and great as the costs of some of the solutions may be, I believe they would not stand comparison with those obvious and not so obvious costs which we are all bearing day by day, and which are getting worse. The costs of the present situation far outweigh the costs of putting up with the present situation and patching it here or there and mitigating its worst effects. There must be a fundamental approach to solving that problem.
There are many factors in that approach. I have no doubt that more efficient public transport would reduce the incidence of private transport and the frequency with which people bring their cars into the city centre. That would present us with a double advantage. We would have a more efficient public service which would reduce the use of other traffic on our thoroughfares. The opposite is also true. If we do not make the public transport system more efficient and if it continues to get more and more  inefficient, there will be more reliance on private transport. There has to be a clear analytical approach to this problem and a start must be made. The more the cost of the present chaos is seen and understood, the more chance there is we will get the right framework and the right public support for the changes that should be made. There is not just one change needed. There has been a great deal of controversy over road construction. There have been many unnecessary delays and a great deal of shilly-shallying on the part of Dublin City Council on some proposals that came before them. Road construction is part of the solution but I would not suggest it would be the whole solution in Dublin or even a substantial part of it, even though it is a necessary part, but the link roads are certainly a part of the solution.
If we are going to get hung up on every single individual component of a solution that comes up and if it is going to be looked at from ideological lines, whether at local or at national Government level, we are going to sink more and more into the morass. I hope the new Government will not get entangled in this ideological approach, which seems to have befuddled the thinking of their colleagues in Dublin City Council when it came to dealing with part of this problem.
To deal with the present traffic problem as it affects CIE I would like to point out that most of Dublin's buses are 20 to 25 years old and they travel through the congested streets at three miles per hour. How they could be expected to give a service is incomprehensible. I welcome the steps that have been taken over the past year or so to provide the new fleet. This will contribute to and be part of, the solution. I also welcome the experiment with bus lanes. It shows a flexibility that is needed. It shows an awareness of the problem and a willingness to experiment. Where right decisions have been made, they should be acknowledged. There is no doubt, as has been mentioned over and over again in this debate, that morale is a huge factor in CIE. It has sunk to an abysmal low among workers and management. It is so gigantic an organisation now that it is easy to understand why it  is so hard to fire morale and imagination and to have a lively and imaginative approach on the part of management and workers. Success in any one area is likely to be swamped by continuing deterioration in many other areas throughout the organisation. Pride in identification with the organisation and the public service it provides seems to have disappeared totally.
The present strike in Dublin is a reflection of that. It is the latest evidence of the chaos and crumbling morale in that organisation for which the public are paying the bill. It is one thing to pay the price for a service that is not good, but surely it is absolutely outrageous and intolerable that the public should pay the price for a service which does not exist at all. That is exactly what is happening at the moment because the public are paying taxes, direct and indirect, to support an organisation which, with incredible frequency, is simply providing no service at all.
Part of the answer lies in the size of the organisation. Smaller units provide more flexibility and the possibility for management and the work force to identify more with the service they are giving, not carrying the tag of constantly losing money, being inefficient and having old equipment and rolling stock. There is an opportunity for a new beginning through the use of smaller units in the provision of the overall transport service. It would give flexibility and the possibility of identifying with the service and taking a pride in it.
There is no reason to have the ideological hang-up that certain services must always be in public control, but people who advocate that as much as possible they should be handed over to private enterprise can be equally wrong. We must be pragmatic and weigh the situation to see in what way the service can best be provided. Bearing in mind the huge extent of the public transport service involved in CIE there is room for participation by both public and private enterprise.
Steps have been taken in recent legislation, including the Finance Act, 1981,  to provide support through the taxation system for private investment in some of these areas such as road construction, bridge construction and car park construction. That is a step in the right direction. It is somewhat removed from the direct operation of CIE itself.
One cannot look at CIE's performance and their ability to provide a service outside the overall transport and traffic situation generally. The more we can involve private finance in financing this service, the more flexibility we will get, the more thought will be brought to solving the problems generally and the less the public purse will be called on. There are cumulative advantages in the use of smaller units, whether they are publicly or privately owned, and the flexible combination of public and private finance. I hope that the new Government will take this view and will not be bogged down by ideological hang-ups or compromises between the Labour Party and the Fine Gael Party as to whether certain services should be financed through the public Exchequer or through public borrowing or private investment. We must have a fresh and flexible approach which will have the public interest in mind.
Minister for Transport (Mr. Cooney) Patrick M. Cooney
Minister for Transport (Mr. Cooney): I wish to thank Senators for their welcome and their good wishes. It is a rather odd feeling to be translated, as Senator Murphy said. It may be more a form of political reincarnation if we follow the theological analogy. I am greatful to the Senators who contributed to this debate.
The Bill is quite narrow in its objective which is merely to provide for the financial position in CIE and does not deal with the structures of CIE. All Senators refrained from going into the whole area of transport policy in any depth because of the limited scope of the Bill. CIE have been the subject of an evaluation by a firm of consultants who have reported in the last few months. Their report is being considered and a debate on that report is under way among the interests involved. I intend bringing that report and the Government's views on it and on the whole transport scene generally, which includes CIE, to the Houses of the Oireachtas at the earliest possible date for a comprehensive  debate. This is an area which is giving rise to a considerable amount of dissatisfaction and an area of national life in which there is a real and proper expectation of significant change to bring about significant improvement. It goes without argument that improvements are required.
Much of the impetus for this demand for change and improvement arises from the situation in Dublin city. Senator Donnelly made a case with which I am in total sympathy regarding the need to deal with the chaotic situation in Dublin city. Very often CIE unfairly have to carry the blame for it, but I do not think any transport company could provide an efficient public transport system in the streets of Dublin at present because they are so choked with traffic. I was encouraged when Senator Donnelly said that the problem must be approached in radical terms. I believe totally that it must be so approached. There is a task force dealing with this matter at present and they have made certain recommendations regarding new traffic techniques to try to ameliorate the problem. As a personal thought — and there is always a risk in expressing personal preferences without the benefit of deep analysis preparation — there must be a more radical approach to the problem in Dublin even to the extent of making it financially unprofitable to come with private transport into the chaos of Dublin. There must be a financial deterrent and it could be cheaper on people in the long run than having to bear their share of the hidden costs that result from the present chaotic situation. I assure the House that I am conscious of the need for a radical approach to the problems in Dublin city.
I am also aware from the debate here and in the other House that there is a demand for a radical overhaul of the entire CIE operation and the transport policy of the nation. I assure Senator Donnelly that this will not be approached on the basis of any particular ideological hangup. It will be approached on the basis of getting the right mix; and, if the right mix happens to be public and private, fine. But let us not forget that CIE  came into existence because private transport as then constituted had failed. That is not to suggest that the private enterprise presence might not be a good thing now.
The fundamental debate has yet to take place. I do not want to take the risk of making any pre-emptive remarks at this stage bearing in mind that I have yet to consider the implications of the McKinsey Report and make my own evaluation and advise the Government who will finally decide on the transport policy we need. As Senator Murphy pointed out, we need an efficient public transport in urban areas. We cannot have that in our urban areas until we cure the traffic chaos. That is the first requirement towards providing efficient public transport in the larger urban areas. Traffic chaos must be cured, if necessary by radical new measures. I intend looking at experiences in other parts of the world where experiments have been carried out and have produced significantly successful results. It will be interesting to see whether our people will have the sense of self-discipline to accept whatever may be offered. I hope there will be the political will to impose solutions. If the question of making these decisions I am proposing arises in the next few years, I can assure the House that the political will will be present.
The present dispute in CIE is causing considerable hardship. While CIE bashing is an easy thing to engage in, it is a bit unfair and I take issue with Senator McDonald when he called for a change in the board and management. I pay tribute to both the board and management for what they have done in a very difficult context. I am quite satisfied with the level of dedication and expertise available in CIE management. They are men of great spirit to have endured all the criticism and bashing that they have had to endure for so long. I pay tribute too to the vast majority of the work force of CIE. Some Senators have spoken of the espirit de corps that is there. That is possibly a carry-over from the days when the railways were the predominant feature in our transport system and there was a  great esprit de corps among railwaymen. That can be fanned again to our benefit. At the same time when sections of that work force are prepared to leave their fellow citizens stranded, it is right that they should be criticised. I would not like Senator Murphy to think that such criticisms could be called self-righteous condemnation. I do not know that one could apply those terms to the call by the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, who have asked their members who are not on strike to go back to work. The workers' failure to respond to a call from their own congress is something that should be subject to criticism. I make that criticism. Those men should heed the call of their own trade union leaders and go back to work.
Senator Murphy mentioned that in urban areas that have a good public transport system very often there is a flat fare. That is something that may well be suitable for our situation in due course, but to operate that and get the full benefit we would have to have the one-man buses which is something that has been resisted for a very long time by the trade unions. New attitudes and new approaches will have to be seen if we are to make improvements and implement the radical changes that the present situation requires.
The present dispute is sensitive and complex. Any dispute arising in an institution as large as CIE will necessarily have complexities different from those arising in some other organisations and the complexities are compounded by the fact that there are so many different grades and so many different unions catering for the same grades. This adds to the difficulties of grappling with the problems and finding solutions. I am satisfied that my colleague, the Minister for Labour, has sufficient knowledge and sensitivity of that scene to be able to give it the attention it deserves. I agree with the point made by Senator Whitaker that it has now come to the stage when the public service pay, its place in our economy and the need for reason in the levels of public service pay are of paramount importance. We have to be careful that  we do not call for easy give-in solutions to any trade dispute. That is not to say that solutions are not being sought urgently within the accepted parameters of industrial relations and negotiating procedures.
Senator Whitaker raised the question of the attention that will have to be given to the loss-makers generally in the public sector. That is a serious problem facing Government finances because the accumulated amount of these losses is frightening. How they will be controlled, reduced and, hopefully, financed for the continuing operation of these institutions is a major problem. It is all part and parcel of the whole question of the public finances. Senators know from the review that was published today that they are in a serious condition and will require serious remedies. The remedies cannot all be implemented immediately and even to talk of phasing out some of the deficits over four years is possibly unduly optimistic. It will probably have to take longer. But the loss-makers will have to get attention. We will have to take an overall view of all these State-sponsored activities and we will have to give attention to their financial requirements and financial implications. I take Senator Whitaker's point that we are still describing amounts given to CIE as repayable assets and that the advances are repayable advances and consequently are shown as assets in their books. It would be more realistic to describe them as non-repayable grants because in effect that is what they turn out to be. It is a matter of presentation, although there is an argument in favour of calling them repayable advances because there is an expectation that repayable advances must pay interest to the Exchequer. Whether that interest ever comes is another day's work. It is an attempt to impose some of the discipline of the balance sheet, illusory though it may be. That, I am sure, is the historical reason for calling them such. On review of this whole scene we may call them grants so that the public will know exactly what the position is. It could be better too for the morale of the workers that we do not expect them to operate on commercial  criteria and with impossible financial structures so that they are constantly being projected to the public in a serious loss situation attracting the criticism that would come with that. We may have to change all that.
With regard to CIE, the Joint Oireachtas Committee suggested that that part of their operation which can be identified as purely social should be shown differently in their results and that that which is commercial should be shown as such, so that there would be public recognition of the role that CIE play and how each part of that role is to be financed.
Senator Lambert made the point that the present monopoly situation must be relaxed. As I said already, it came into being because private enterprise had failed totally, but that is not to say that relaxation of monopoly is not now required. Again I do not want to preempt the fundamental discussion we must have on CIE and on transport policy generally. Likewise, with regard to the question of road freight, I take the point Senator Lambert made. But I am expecting shortly a report from the Transport Consultative Commission on this very subject. I would be slow to react to what he said in a way that might be pre-emptive and necessarily off the top of my head. Therefore, the caution of office is manifesting itself.
Senator Brugha asked the specific question: what was the cost of the social welfare free travel scheme for the elderly? I understand that the provision in the Social Welfare vote for 1981 is £12.23 million. That does not include certain free school transport schemes which are paid for by the Department of Education. But the social welfare payments, in which Senator Brugha was interested, are calculated to be £12.23 million for this year. It is like a transport subsidy but, if you like, is not something for which CIE can be blamed. We have decided that social welfare recipients and the elderly should be provided with free transport. It is a circular payment emanating from the Exchequer. If it did not come under the Department of Social  Welfare Vote, then the CIE subvention would be that much greater. It is as broad as it is long.
Senator Whitaker raised the drafting point that the board are not specifically defined in this Bill. As he suspected, and as I am advised, it is not so defined in this Bill because this Bill amends earlier Acts in which the word is defined. I take his point though that it might be neater to say specifically for the benefit of a stranger who might — if one can imagine a stranger wanting to read this Bill — want to know the definition of the word “board”. I take his point and we can draw the attention of the draftsmen to it for suitable Bills in the future.
I think I have covered most of the points raised by Senators. As many of them pointed out, the full-scale debate on CIE has yet to take place. It is something that is a bit daunting because of the size of the problem. Senators here have referred to the very size of CIE. Senator Donnelly spoke of its size and that possibly one change to be affected might be smaller units in the future. That may well be but it is something that will have to be considered. There is to be remembered the very size of CIE, the scale of its operations, its economic role, its social role. Then again there is the morale of their workers and how that is to be restored. It does seem that it is at a lower level than we would like. People feel that bad morale is the cause of the constant series of industrial disputes. Indeed, I think there have been over 100 of them in the last four years, though the bulk of those have been unofficial. I suppose that does show some malaise somewhere. Therefore, our examination of CIE will have to look at matters that are not purely economic, that are not purely transport. We will have to look at these intangibles — human relationships between management and workers, between workers themselves, the whole complex trade union situation within CIE, this intangible question of morale. Possibly all those things will come right if we get the economics right. And, if we get the structures right, all those other things should follow. We hope they will follow.
I want to assure the House that I am  conscious of the need for urgent attention to this problem and for bringing forward proposals urgently. I nearly said: bringing forward solutions urgently — that would be a brave statement — but I will certainly come forward with proposals at the earliest possible moment.
Question put and agreed to.
Agreed to take remaining Stages today.
Seanad Éireann 95 Transport Bill, 1981: Second Stage.