Seanad Éireann - Volume 102 - 01 February, 1984
Activities and Financing of CIE: Motion (Resumed).
Debate resumed on the following motion:
That Seanad Éireann takes note of the activities of CIE and the arrangements for financing that organisation.
Mr. Lanigan Mr. Lanigan
Mr. Lanigan: It is an opportune time to have an in-depth look at the activities of CIE and, as the motion says, the arrangements for financing that organisation. CIE, as a State body are probably an organisation that have had more people looking at them, delving into them and writing about them than any  other organisation in the State, and no conclusion has emerged as to the role that CIE should play in the organisation of transport communications within the State. The Minister in some way has decided that in future the social element will be considered to be 50 per cent of the board's revenue or 33⅓ per cent of the board's expenditure, so in a sense in this year the social element to some degree has been set down. How was that figure reached?
It seems that since CIE have been looked at for so long it would be virtually impossible within the short length of time that the Minister has looked at this problem to be able to come up with a definitive social element within the operation of CIE. In the formulation of financial policies for the coming year and, as the Minister said, for years following that, the plan does not give any total expectancy of return to profitability, so I wonder how in one sense is he able to quantify the social element and then say the plan does not give a certainty of profitability under the new scheme?
I accept, as the Minister said, that a new positive and aggressive commercial ethos will have to be developed within the company. It seems to me that in 1984 it is time somebody decided such an ethos should be developed. I wonder why this commercial element has been missing from the company for so long. The debate so far seems to have tended towards nit-picking on various problems that individual Senators have come across rather than looking at the importance of CIE's contribution to the economy in terms of the large numbers of workers they have. The Minister gave a figure of 16,000. I am not sure exactly what the figure is. The numbers employed there are dispersed right throughout the State to give to local economies a large part of their incomes.
Unfortunately, there has tended to be in the past number of years a rationalisation programme which has tended to take away from smaller towns the employment given by CIE and has concentrated the employment factor in the bigger cities. I do not think this was a plan which should have been allowed to  develop and I do not see that CIE have in any way improved their operations because of it. In this motion we have to discuss the public operation of transport and the private element.
Senator Kirwan in his contribution cast the aspersion that the private sector totally had milked the transport system of all available profitability and then went bankrupt. It is very hard to see how a company could milk the system, take all the profits and go bankrupt. There must have been other reasons why privatisation did not continue at the rate which I would consider to be necessary. One of the major inhibitions on privatisation was the fact that there was regularisation, by which people who were running old-fashioned steam engines back in the thirties were given road traffic licences based on the weight of their steam engines. After that, it was virtually impossible to get a road haulage licence: you had to purchase a licence from one of the holders. Over the past number of years there has been an attempt to deregularise the situation, or to give to private firms more rights or more opportunities to involve themselves in road haulage. There was a Bill recently which did just that.
Much has been made of the very bad relations between management and workers in CIE. There are many reasons for this. I feel that in CIE the workers would tell you that the distances from them of management and from the board to management are totally excessive and could not give the workers any degree of stability in their jobs or any confidence that the board or the management of the company was giving to them what they needed to do their jobs in a fit and proper manner.
That does not mean that at times industrial disputes have not taken place in CIE which could have been avoided if the trade unions operating in CIE had consulted their workers or members. Over the past couple of years it would seem that the development of a system of worker-directors in CIE has given to workers at least some contact with the board. Anybody who listens to the worker-directors speaking on the problems of CIE would see that not alone  have they the interests of the workers at heart but equally they have at heart the continuity of CIE in a viable and worthwhile manner. It can be said by certain people that these worker-directors are very narrow in their attitude towards the operations. Because they are closer to the ground than management or directors of the board they do seem to have what the people are saying to them at heart and equally what their co-workers are saying.
Until there are better staff relations in CIE we will have continuing problems. The figure that was quoted yesterday was 50,000 work days lost in CIE in 1983 which was ten times the national average. Obviously somebody will have to sit down, whether it be the Minister or an internal commission, to work out exactly why those days were lost. Is it because there has been a lack of contact with or loss of confidence by the workers in their management? Is it because the workers have lost confidence in their trade unions? Is it that the trade unions do not see a future for their workers in CIE? Is it that there is total lack of confidence by all elements in CIE to overcome the problems that they have?
It would seem that lack of confidence is a major element in management-worker relationships. When it is boiled down, the board members of CIE are not known to the public and in many cases the management of CIE are not known to the public, but the bus conductor and the bus driver are known to the public, and the man driving the truck delivering goods is known to the public. The people working on the trains are known. They get the stick though it is not often realised that they are working in harrowing conditions. Any driver who has to work a full day in Dublin city, goes to work in the morning and is working in very bad traffic conditions all day. Then some person gives out to him because a bus is five minutes late. This is not conducive to him to sit down and distance himself at a trade union meeting from the problems that he has. One of the major things that has to be done in CIE is a major review of industrial relations.
 Of course the public do not get from management the type of information that is needed. It is virtually impossible in places to find out at what times trains and buses will run and parcels can be delivered. There is a need for a better information service from CIE, and I do not mean a PR exercise. One thing that they seem to be great at is in providing a PR expert for every situation. He glosses over the problem, goes back to his office, sits down and says, “I have done a very good job,” but nothing has been done to help the public.
This year we have each Department in Government fighting a case to get a share of the nation's finances, and it will be extremely hard for CIE to get the type of money that they need to run their operation in this new, positive and aggressive way. The health boards and the Department of the Environment are roaring for money. Where is the money to come from? It will come from the taxpayers' pockets. What we have got to do is to ensure that every penny that is spent in CIE will be spent in a positive manner, because the public's perception of spending is that money is being spent in a positive manner.
The unfortunate thing about rolling stock and the maintenance of the property of CIE in the coming year is that too much of the moneys on the capital side are to be expended on the electrification scheme for the greater Dublin area and on 64 new carriages for mainline trains which will not do very much to upgrade the mainline rail system.
Reading some of the newspapers recently one would imagine that the trains in Ireland had never been cleaned, that they are filthy always. I travel by train quite a lot and in general it can be said that Irish trains and buses are as well maintained, considering their age, as any system in the world.
When we look at the situation around the country, it is a problem when we see much of this year's capital allocation going into the electrification of the Bray to Dublin line which, it would appear, will never make a profit. Of course, if we take the social element into account and if 50 per cent of CIE revenue will be  subsidised by the Government, it can be taken as a social input. Therefore, it is a mistake to say that the Bray-Howth line will pay its way in the sense that we are going to take that 50 per cent of the revenue of that line as social revenue which will not come out of this commercial ethos element.
It is right and proper that we should be discussing electrification. I saw that beautiful new set of stamps that are being brought out this year which shows the Dublin to Kingstown railway. One of the things that was said in the first-day cover is that it was among the world's first railways, that it was the first railway to be opened in Ireland. It was the first railway ever to build an engine for its own work when it built the “Princess”. The 23-piece stamp set features the engine “Princess” and train approaching Blackrock.
I travel a lot in that area and that engine approaching Blackrock is one thing, but when we get the newly electrified railway, and the trains are passing by Blackrock every five minutes, I hate to think what will happen to anybody who is on the sea side of the railway gates near Blackrock College, right back into Westland Row. I think there are 17 road crossings. At present in the mornings it is virtually impossible to cross those lines. If you are to have a system with a train passing every five minutes, there is only one way people will be able to get from Strand Road, Sandymount, from Ringsend, from the sea side of Lansdowne Road — to use public transport, which may be the object of the exercise. If everybody in that area have to leave their cars at home because they cannot drive across the railway lines it will mean that they will have to use the new train. Of course, that is grand if they are only going to Dublin, but if they are trying to get out of Dublin they will have problems.
The Minister in his speech said that a greater number of people used the buses in Dublin in 1983 than in 1982. If one looks at the state of the motor industry in Ireland and the cost of keeping a motor vehicle due to tax, insurance and everything else, it is quite logical that people could not afford to use their cars any more. Indeed there are more cars being  sold without new cars being bought than the other way round. This is one of the reasons why there was extra traffic engendered in 1983 over 1982.
One of the things that has been most noticeable in 1983 over 1982 is the greater number of buses leaving Dublin city every Friday evening for places all over the country, and indeed coming back late on Sunday night and early on Monday morning. These private bus companies are giving a service to the public which CIE have not done, and because of the constraints placed by union regulations and so forth they cannot do it. I feel that CIE should decide to leave that type of business to the private operators, who do a fantastic job. I meet those club buses very far down the country. They go down on Friday night and they can be used on Saturday to bring shoppers back to Dublin, they go back down the country again and the club again brings them back to Dublin on Sunday night, leaving County Mayo or maybe Kilkenny or Cork. They go back to Dublin at a reasonable hour on a Sunday night so that connections can be got by people living in the suburbs and they will have had a good weekend at home. Alternatively, they can leave very early on Monday morning and get into Dublin at 9 o'clock. That type of service can be done best by the private bus companies. If one looks at the overall transport system and the difference between CIE and private hauliers and private bus companies, one of the major things he will notice is the adaptability of the private companies.
School buses were referred to. A school bus in CIE is a school bus and is not allowed to be used for any other purpose. Generally speaking, the work of a school bus finishes in the morning at 10 o'clock and in the evening at approximately 6 o'clock, only working from 3 o'clock to 6 o'clock, and for the remainder of the day it is not used at all. At weekends it is not used, and during the long summer holidays it is not used, whereas with the private operator you will find that the school bus is being used as a school bus in the morning, it is being used for other social purposes which CIE are not providing in smaller towns around  the country — it is being used as a commuter transporter during the day. On Sunday it is being used to provide transport, which is much more reasonable than CIE, for matches, social functions or whatever. Of course, it will be used for driving a large number of people at night to bingo halls.
Ambulances drive patients to clinics at times when CIE school buses are not being used. People talk about cutting down on public expenditure. You have ambulances, taxis, every form of transport, bringing people to clinics which are at set times on set days, and you have school buses lying idle. It is a public disgrace. I cannot see why a system cannot be arranged whereby school buses could be used to better advantage. In the school bus system I feel the best service is being given by the private sector but they are managed by CIE. The Department of Education finance the school bus system but CIE manage it and in the main private companies run it, which leads to duplication which is totally unproductive and unprofitable.
CIE's place in material handling has to be analysed very carefully. CIE do a fairly good job. Somebody said that CIE should get into warehousing and distribution. Any railway station which has a commercial end to it has a warehouse. There is no difference between a railway station with goods in it and a commercial warehouse down the road. There is not the adaptability in CIE regarding the transporting of goods that one has in the private sector. There should not be conflict here. There is a place for CIE and for the private sector in material handling. The private sector, through the liberalising that has taken place over the past number of years, have played a major part in the transportation of our manufactured goods, of goods generally and in the export of goods.
It was said yesterday that it was a shame to see at most of the meat factories, and other factories around the country which are exporting goods, that it is mainly foreign vehicles which are transporting these goods. Foreign vehicles  are doing most of the transporting because the cost of providing transport has gone up enormously over the past number of years. The initial cost alone of the smallest vehicle capable of doing a trip to the Continent with a container behind it is probably in the region of £75,000. This is one reason why we see so many foreign vehicles. When one considers the cost of tyres, insurance, tax, and replacement parts, there is no country which does not pay less than we do for one of these vehicles.
The main reason for this is the tax element involved. The amount of tax taken by the Revenue Commissioners is too high. There is absolutely no way one can foresee a future for the transporters of exports unless there is some change. If a person is using a vehicle and containers mostly on export business his company tax should be the very same as if he were an export company. The profits he makes should be taxed at the 10 per cent company export profit rate rather than the internal company profits tax. If this were done it would at least ensure that even though the input into the motor vehicle would still remain above the level of our European and British competitors at least if profits were made these profits would only be taxed at the export rate. Let us be fair about it. There is no way our exporting companies could stay in business without the transportation of goods to markets abroad.
Mention was made of the enforcement of common European regulations. In 99 per cent of the cases these common regulations should not apply in Ireland. We do not have the roads and we do not have the same length of very good roads they have in other countries. There should be a more liberal attitude with regard to the regulations on the tachograph here. Under the regulations a man who is sending a load to Cork has to have two drivers. When driving on a motorway in England, an autoroute in France or Spain, or an autobahn in Germany, the length of time the driver spends on the roads is less, and his average speed is greater. Therefore his driving is reduced and he has not to stop after the statutory limit that is there at present.
 Liberalisation gave an opportunity to private individuals to increase the number of their vehicles but you can only increase the number of your vehicles if you have the cash to do so and have the returns from the business. The way Irish business has gone in the last couple of years, the cost of the inputs into the enormous cost of trying to purchase new vehicles have inhibited people from increasing the size and type of transport they have available. Even though we have had liberalisation there have not been a great number coming in to create problems for those already in the industry.
There are development which are helping to cut down the overall cost in the sense that own account transportation is getting smaller and the companies which were transporting their own goods are now depending more and more on road hauliers because the capital cost of the vehicles, the maintenance costs and the labour costs have gone too high. Every company who have to deliver goods of their own manufacture should carefully look, before purchasing a vehicle, at the economics of bringing in an outside haulier, whether that haulier be CIE or a private haulier. The importance of the road haulage system cannot be over-emphasised. The cost of double handling, if we use CIE, of taking goods from the factory, bringing them to the railhead, shipping the goods and taking them off again is so high that in 99 per cent of cases it is more economical to do a factory to warehouse or a factory to customer single delivery.
The amount of money the Department of the Environment are providing this year for capital projects is £6,000 less than it was last year. This means that the maintenance of our roads and making new roads is slowing down to an enormous degree. This means increased costs for the transporters of goods.
The role of other State agencies has to be taken into account when we deal with CIE and their financing. CIE have to depend on the Department of the Environment as have every other group who use the roads. Anybody who does a lot  of driving will notice that in the past 12 months they had more left-hand front and left-hand back punctures than was the case previously. This is because of the state of the verges and the potholes on the off side of vehicles.
CIE have a major role to play in our economy in regard to tourism. In certain areas, because of the lack of finance and a lack of knowledge of what tourism needs at present, CIE are not doing for this country the job they were set up to do and which we expect from them. Throughout the Continent at present there is an ever-increasing number of young people travelling. They tend to use public transport, particularly the trains. There is an argument that these people do not spend money in the countries to which they go. It is a false argument because no matter where they go, they have to eat and if they are travelling they will use some sort of transportation. It is not the money that they spend while they are in the country as young students that is important, it is the amount of money that there is a potential for them to spend when they leave college or get into the work area and into what is considered normal tourism. If they have travelled throughout a country and enjoyed it as youngsters, they tend to go back to that country.
CIE will have to look at the possibility of tying in more closely with the inter-rail system in Europe to provide the type of transportation that these people can use. There is no use telling people to come to Ireland and use the student's rate or buy a tri-monthly ticket if they cannot get by train from Rosslare to Limerick without having to wait, perhaps 12 hours, or even 24 hours. A large number of these people come in through Rosslare. Rosslare is an area which as a tourist entry point will have to be looked at very carefully.
For a number of years CIE have been trying to get money to complete the facilities in Rosslare and have not as yet been successful in doing so. Unless the money to develop Rosslare is forthcoming our tourism base there will drop. This applies to the facilities available at the port for passengers and ships, the facilities for getting away from the port and the provision  of proper information about the tourism potential of the country in terms of cheap travel.
There has been a lot of controversy about the closure of lines. There are a number of lines under threat in that area — the connecting line between Waterford and Rosslare and down to Limerick Junction. There have been various plans put forward over the years about what would happen in that area. We have not yet co-ordinated the traffic plan from Rosslare to the rest of the country.
Over the last few months we have seen the controversy about the role of the hotels within CIE's ambit. These hotels have been run very well by the people who operated them. From time to time, these people did not get support from CIE. It will be interesting to see if CERT will do any better in terms of getting the necessary capital that is needed and in getting promotion from CIE from outside the country. There is absolutely no reason why tourist promoters, whether they are working totally for CIE, Bord Fáilte or for any other State enterprise, cannot jointly bring tourists to Ireland. It is incredible that they cannot fill four hotels at least to an 80 per cent capacity basis for 12 months of the year. If it is not within the capabilities of CIE to do that I cannot see how they could have the capability to run a transport system of any size.
There will have to be more than just constraints put on CIE in terms of subventions and a stated social objective if they are to succeed. There will have to be co-ordination at all levels within CIE to give back to the workers the confidence they need in this major industry. There will have to be co-ordination between the role of the board of CIE vis-à-vis the deplorable personnel problems they have. In terms of the problems that are encountered by CIE and other people involved in transport in Ireland, there will have to be a co-ordination of effort from the Departments of the Environment, Finance and Transport to see how we can have a better transport system which is workable, whether it is run by the private or public sector.
 We will have to give workers back security in their jobs and encouragement to meet the public and not constant harassment from all sides whether it be here in the Houses of the Oireachtas, in the streets or whether it be from management at the top level who seem to be as far away from them as the 1884 Dublin-Kingstown railway is from the Dún Laoghaire-Dublin new railway.
Mr. Durcan Mr. Durcan
Mr. Durcan: I am glad we are debating this motion because it is one of the most relevant motions to come before this House in my short time here. The Minister said in his opening remarks that the activities of CIE impinge upon virtually every citizen every day of his life. Whether it be through public transport, in terms of commuter transport or commercial transport, all citizens daily have some experience of CIE.
We are faced with the problem that rightly or wrongly there is in the country at the moment a tremendous lack of public confidence in our national transport authority. That is something that worries all of us and is something that is to be regretted. It must worry us because when confidence does not exist in a body such as CIE that body cannot thrive. If the people had a clearer understanding of CIE and their activities some of that confidence might be restored, and that organisation might be able to develop more quickly and constructively.
It is impossible to talk about CIE in isolation. When we are talking about the public transport body we have to be aware of the other methods of transport, whether it be our road system, internal air system, harbours, canals or the various other modes of transport within the country. One of the big problems of CIE is that they tend to look at their own activities in isolation. CIE have forgotten that they are not living in the 19th century when the national railway system came into existence. At that time there was an automatic monoply. Road transport was impossible for commercial purposes, airways were unheard of and there was no organised system of transport except rail transport. Very rapidly from the 1840s and 1850s onwards we saw a development  of rail transport for commercial and passenger purposes. The monoply came into existence automatically.
With the development of the road system, the arrival of the motor car and lorry and now the articulated truck, the development of internal airways and the growth of our motor car numbers, the system has changed radically. CIE have not adequately appreciated that fact. That begs the question — do we have an overall transport policy which considers all of these aspects? That is the question Government have to ask and answer. The Government are basically the transport policy makers and CIE are one of the means by which that policy is to be implemented. With considerable constraints on resources we have to ask ourselves the question, can we afford a first class rail service, a first class road service and a first class bus passenger service all at the one time? Should the State be saying that our resources should primarily go into one area as distinct from the other areas? At present we are spending our resources within all of these areas and we are getting the worst of all worlds. In this sense CIE must not be seen as some form of protected national sacred cow. They must be seen as having a place within the overall system of transport. I would like to get the Minister's comment on that.
Transport, like all other systems of communications, is vital for infrastructural development. Some of us live in parts of the country where we have a very weak infrastructure. I am referring to the west in particular, the part of the country I come from, the Leas-Chathaoirleach comes from and the Minister of State comes from. We have poor and inadequate roads, and a railway service and a bus service that could be improved. So far as that part of the country is concerned the Government must grasp the nettle and must decide where priorities lie in ensuring that our citizens can at least have one solid system of transport. Until that is done, CIE playing their role in the whole system of transport will be a little bit like a rudderless ship, moving without direction.
The Minister referred to the social aspect of public transport and the priorities  in that regard which he determined in June 1983. The social element must vary depending on the social need. When you have a weak communication infrastructure there is a very high priority need for public transport. Therefore, CIE must look very carefully at the service they are providing to the people in the west. CIE commercial traffic in the west is declining rapidly. One reason for that is that it is regarded as extremely expensive, inefficient and caught up in red tape and bureaucracy. As far as commercial traffic is concerned a completely new approach is required by CIE. An aggressive selling policy and a business approach are required. CIE must get out to the business and the commercial communities and respond to their needs. The response to the needs of the business and commercial communities in the west in the eighties is very different from the response which was required in the sixties. Despite some innovations I do not think that CIE have adequately responded to the needs which exist and which they can satisfy if they approach them in a more aggressive and businesslike manner.
I would like to refer to the rail service to the west. I can only describe it as utterly deplorable. We had the opportunity of reading in The Irish Times of 31 January 1984 an article by Dr. Conor Cruise-O'Brien describing a rail journey to Sligo. It was appropriate that the article should have appeared while we are debating this motion. If one goes down to Heuston Station to catch the train to Westport, as I frequently do, one advantage of the present system is that one does not have to look at the signboard to see the platform number one is departing from. One simply has to look at the trains available at the station and one will see the gleaming supertrains, lined up and ready to steam off in every direction except the west. One will see the one remaining dirty looking cattle-truck type vehicle ready to transport those of us who are travelling to the west. That is what it can be descibed as and that is what it looks like. It is appalling that those of us who live in a remote region within an inadequate infrastructure should be subjected  to the worst trains. The train to west Mayo frequently has carriages without lighting, broken windows and doors and inadequate heating. Whether the heating is too hot or too cold one is always in danger of catching some kind of flu. The dining facilities vary but are never dependable and the toilet facilities are best not used. That is spelling out the stark facts of what CIE provide for those of us who use the passenger service to the west.
I was glad to hear the Minister say yesterday that in terms of capital expenditure during the coming year CIE are arranging for the construction of 124 new carriages. It certainly warms the cockles of my heart to realise that the rolling stock will be improving. I am worried that as soon as these new carriages are available the people in the west will be told that we are getting the old Cork carriages, the old Limerick carriages or the old Kerry carriages but we will not get new carriages. We will not be getting new engines, new dining cars or what we should be getting, namely what those travelling to other destinations in this country at the moment are getting. It is high time that CIE ensured a certain equality of service for travellers to all parts of this country. The train to the west is like “Wanderley Wagon”. It is quite an exciting journey because you do not know what you will encounter on board. The only thing that makes the experience bearable is the courtesy, service and kindness of the CIE staff on the train.
The bus service is also inadequate. The inadequacy in that regard again reflects an unbusinesslike approach by CIE. I speak from a limited, parochial experience. In the west Mayo area recently we had certain changes in bus timetables and in changing these timetables CIE have never had regard to the needs of the people who will be using the buses, or to where the buses are going, or why they are going there. Certain buses travelling on pension days have been removed. Certain buses travelling at times appropriate to bring people to services have been removed and in return  we have buses travelling at times which are of little use to anybody and in consequence the bus service is not used. In due course we will be told by CIE that if the service is not being used it will be discontinued.
The rural bus service can and will be used if the service is provided at a time to suit the commuter. The commuter is a consumer of a service and the service must be available at an appropriate time. In this regard also aggression and a businesslike approach is required of CIE. If CIE have no interest in commuter services between small villages and small towns then they should tell us so and allow the private operator to provide those services. If they are interested in providing the services they must get out, they must sell themselves and they must provide the services when they are required.
Senator Lanigan mentioned the schools buses. It is appalling that these are used for limited purposes only. There is tremendous capital investment here and that investment is left idle outside school hours. These buses could be used for weekend purposes, for conveying people on special shopping expeditions to the larger shopping centres, to sports events and to all kinds of special events. A bus or a rail carriage should be kept moving at all times and I cannot see any justification for leaving capital equipment such as this static when it can be used beneficially.
In this regard I want to refer to a controversy which recently arose in west Mayo. CIE, who, I understand, control the transport of disabled children to schools for the disabled, are not willing to allow disabled children to be accompanied by a protector or a guide on these buses. This issue received an amount of national publicity recently and I would like the Minister to use his good offices to ensure that CIE investigate it. I believe that the disabled in travelling to schools on public transport should be accompanied and protected.
These inadequacies in our public transport system are very damaging for a number of reasons. In the west they are stifling industrial development. They are  preventing the use of the service by ordinary commuters and they are doing tremendous damage to our tourism. We in the west in great measure are dependent on tourism and we find that the public transport authority do not make adequate services available to ensure that tourists can get in and out of our region easily or be transported with ease within the region. In this regard, and in reference also to the school buses, I was appalled last summer to find that CIE were not able to provide tours for tourists within the Mayo-Galway region and that this service was provided very well by private operators. That is despite the fact that many school buses which could be used for this purpose were lying idle. As I have said, aggression and a businesslike approach are required. Capital equipment in the form of buses should be used at all times and that is one example of proper use not being made of it.
At the beginning of my remarks I referred to a certain lack of public confidence in CIE that in great measure has been brought about by the uncertain industrial relations situation within that organisation. That may not necessarily be the fault of CIE. It may be the fault of successive Governments who have not grasped the industrial relations nettle, but the fact that industrial relations within CIE are much worse than the national average certainly begs some questions. The unofficial strike last August which resulted in one man virtually holding up public transport within the west of Ireland is an indication of that. The bus dispute in Dublin in the heavy shopping days immediately after Christmas was another indication. While our trade unions have a great responsibility and while we may have different views as to whether that responsibility is discharged, there is also a responsibility with Government and with CIE to see that industrial relations within CIE are improved.
Confidence in CIE can be restored in very simple ways. I refer in particular to the condition of the railway stations. There was a time when travelling by rail was an exciting experience because one passed through very pleasant and well-decorated  stations with attractive station gardens and a pleasant atmosphere. When one arrives at a railway station now one usually sees a drably painted, ill-decorated run-down building, and I cannot see why the youth who are being employed under various schemes from the point of view of work experience cannot be retained by CIE to maintain station buildings properly. Such small matters convey a certain image to the public and that in turn can have a very definite bearing on the confidence which the public will have in a body such as CIE.
In conclusion, I believe that CIE have a very definite role to play but they must be seen as a virile and vibrant organisation, taking their place within the overall transport arrangements.
Mr. Fallon Mr. Fallon
Mr. Fallon: It is right and proper that Seanad Éireann should debate CIE, their financing and all the problems related to them. As a nation we fall down when on the one hand we expect CIE to provide a social service which we do not support to the extent it deserves, and on the other hand we object to subsidising them. Certainly we object to the volume of subsidising which has increased dramatically over the years. I do not profess to have the answers to the problem of CIE, but then over the past decades experts and consultants have not solved the problem either. In fact, it has worsened as the years progressed. We all know that we are living in the era of the car. Almost every home has a car and that in itself is clearly a deterrent to use of the public transport service and is adding to the problems of CIE. Competition on a very wide scale from private enterprise in the transport of goods is adding to the problems. We are in a very tight situation and one that is very difficult to solve, but solved it must be. As a small nation we cannot continue to subsidise to the extent that we are doing at present.
Perhaps now is an opportune time to examine the concept of not just a railway policy but a transport policy that would be of benefit to the nation. It could be done easily enough from within the Department. Surely they have at their  disposal volumes of reports of all sizes and types from consultants. They have the NESC Report and the famous — or infamous — McKinsey Report which cost, I believe, £0.5 million. They have the Department committee reports; they have enough information to enable them within the four walls of that Department to produce a policy which would succeed and would be of benefit to the nation as a whole. We just cannot go on subsidising CIE to the tune of over £100 million. The subvention in 1978 was something less then £38 million. Two years later, in 1980, it had increased to £80 million and now it is a little over £100 million. It is time to cry “halt” and to put a stop to this provision for future years. Certainly any subvention given must be spent wisely and well by CIE.
If reports such as the McKinsey Report call for many difficult decisions to be taken then they should be taken. I believe that some of the McKinsey Report could be implemented and would be of tremendous benefit, even though it would be opposed bitterly and strongly by varying groups and particularly unions. Industrial relations in CIE, particularly as regards the busmen, are appalling. The ordinary man in the street cannot understand the attitude of one particular union in CIE. They seem to call strikes at the first opportunity and to hell with the consequences afterwards. It is most unfair and unjust. We should examine the reports available and the information which we have on countries such as Switzerland, which is probably the only country in Europe with a rail system that pays its way. We should also examine the systems in Sweden and Scandinavia where travel by rail seems to be very attractive.
I would like to mention a few local matters. A new CIE station is being built in Athlone on the east bank of the river. It is planned to open this station in the near future, certainly within a year or two, and to close the existing station on the west bank. Reasons have been given for this. CIE are in such difficult financial straits, the taxpayer is continuously providing a subvention, the Government and all Governments have been over-generous  over the years to CIE. Despite all that I will never be able to appreciate the capital outlay on the building of this new station on the east bank of the River Shannon and the closing of the present station just across the river which has served the company and the people of the midlands very well for longer than I can remember. The people of Athlone cannot understand the thinking of CIE, neither can the people in CIE in the midland Athlone region understand or appreciate the thinking behind this problem. I know that a new bus station has been built close to the old one. I do not think that is sufficient reason why what has been a perfectly good station serving the people well — many Senators in this House have passed through Athlone regularly and they would have to say that there is nothing wrong with the station there — should be closed in the future. I hope that CIE are not implying that CIE will stop on the east bank of Athlone, they will not go further over the River Shannon to Galway, Westport, Roscommon or wherever.
I wish to mention rail freight transportation and in particular the question of safety. I know CIE have a plan if a catastrophe should occur. I am talking in particular about the rail transport of dangerous substance to Asahi in Killala. Most of the towns through which this dangerous substance is brought, mostly at night time, have a plan to deal with a possible emergency and Athlone has a plan whereby the Army, the Garda, the local authority and CIE are involved should anything untoward happen. We all hope that no such thing will ever happen, but it is important from time to time to have a thorough scrutiny of the safety measures. This would be in the best interests of everybody.
Other speakers have referred to the hotels. Senator Lanigan said that CIE in some way had let down the hotel people. Perhaps it was not so; maybe the people of Ireland let them down because they did not use the hotels and if hotels are not being used by the people of the nation then closures will occur. I and my family spent three summer vacations in the CIE hotel in Rosslare. I found it extremely  pleasant with excellent staff. At the time of the bombings in the Gresham and the CIE hotels in Rosslare, Killarney and Galway, I happened to be unlucky in that the room in which I was staying with my family was bombed out by “the freedom fighter from the North”, as he was called at that time. The attitude of CIE to me and my family and to all the other guests was excellent indeed. They appreciated the fact that our holiday had been upset and they went out of their way to make things pleasant for the rest of our stay. I hope that these hotels continue to flourish and if the people of Ireland use them then obviously they will flourish.
CIE might consider a weekend special family rate which would be welcome for families who have not got cars. People who live perhaps 80 miles from Salthill, County Galway, might like, on a fine Sunday, to buy a family ticket and go for the day to a place like Salthill, or perhaps to Dublin, or wherever. It would bring extra revenue to CIE. The limited use of school buses is a disgrace. Here is an area where extra income can be found.
The problems of CIE are huge. I have asked for some national policy that could be formulated from within the Department. I sincerely hope that something worthwhile will come out of this debate and I know that the wish of the Government, and the Irish people, who are the taxpayers, is that subventions of the size we have been making will stop once and for all.
Mr. Burke Mr. Burke
Mr. Burke: The Minister in his opening address said that everybody speaks of CIE in either good or bad terms and more often than not in the latter context. Most people living in rural Ireland cannot take them in any context other than the context of complaints because of the type of service they provide. Therein lies the greatest problem that CIE have as a company. They have too many irons in the fire, they are a jack-of-all trades and, unfortunately, it is becoming more evident that they are master of none. They are never shown to be successful in any of the operations in which they are involved. The recent off-loading of the hotel enterprise, as Senator Fallon has  mentioned, was necessary because the board of management of CIE with the problems of transport, freight and so on, could not successfully operate hotels which constitute a very rapidly changing scene in the commercial world of today. The managers and staff were doing fine promotional work and Senator Fallon said that the people of Ireland might have let down CIE in many instances, but the people of Ireland were compelled to let down the hotel side of it. The ordinary Irish person or the tourist coming into the country could not, unless on a package tour, go into CIE accommodation because it was too expensive. A CIE hotel standard lunch does not compare favourably in price with what other ordinary, commercial and private hotels charge. With that and their involvement in passenger rail traffic, rail freight, urban passenger traffic, rural passenger traffic and school transport it is obvious that CIE are too unwieldy an organisation to operate successfully on all of these bases. If we are to stop complaining about CIE we must give them a chance to operate the things they know best how to operate or provide the services they can provide, and off-load some of the other millstones that are around their necks.
Yesterday it was said here that school transport was profitable. I believe that waiting in the wings are many commercial, private bus operators who would dearly love to see the day when CIE will off-load the school transport system into their hands. It could be operated more flexibly than it is under CIE's hand at present. When their bus inspectors have to use their very important time to come out and measure down to the last yard the distance between one catchment area to a school and another, no organisation could really carry on on a profitable basis providing that type of service.
Many of the operations I have mentioned should not be taken globally under the broad heading of CIE, but should be taken away from CIE and put into private hands. I do not call for the complete dismantling of CIE. They have a function and let them fulfil it.
If any business person wants to travel from Galway to Dublin to do a day's  business and travel down again he cannot do that effectively by public transport. In that respect CIE have fallen down. If they have a market research system within their company it must be outdated; certainly it is not efficient. In the commercial world today orientation is completely towards marketing. CIE have fallen down completely on the marketing scene. I cannot for one moment see why 50-seater buses will travel many of the rural by-roads on a regular basis with only four or five passengers. CIE must know that the number of passengers availing of that service regularly are very few. I realise there are problems in negotiating with the unions, but it is time for unions, employees and management within CIE to stop the terrible rot of having 50-seater buses going down the highways and by-roads of rural Ireland when a mini-bus could operate such a service. Many of the people availing of the service have free travel and it is good that the service is there to provide transport for them, but it is ridiculous to see a standard service operating with only a few passengers on the bus. There is certainly a need there for negotiation with the unions.
County Galway has taken a hammering through closures. Ten years ago buses would leave Portumna for Dublin, Limerick and Galway on a daily basis. None of those services now exists. The only service that exists is a once-weekly from Galway and anybody who would be forced into availing of that service would be taken around Woodford, Loughrea and Athenry and it goes higgledy-piggledy right off the course and could not be described as an efficient service. The planners of routes have been mentioned several times in the debate. I believe that they do not want to implement an efficient service. To justify the closure of the Limerick to Sligo train service CIE ran parallel bus services, and that can be seen in their timetable schedule. In other words, if a train was leaving Limerick for Sligo, they encouraged the road passenger service by providing a fast bus service, say, between Gort and Galway, running parallel and nobody would use the train  service while a more convenient parallel service was available. Competition within CIE between road and rail, could not be expected to be in any way profitable. Such parallel services were unjustifiable. Is anybody in CIE co-ordinating a plan for passenger services? If there was, such a thing could not happen. The only reason it was allowed to continue was to justify closure because of lack of passengers or freight for CIE.
CIE have been said to provide a social service. I cannot see how it can be so classified with the charges they are demanding. A one-way ticket from Galway to Dublin today would cost something like £18. A reduction of charges and fares across the board would attract people to use public transport. Road traffic is heavy, the roads are deteriorating and the cost of motoring has escalated.
Sitting suspended at 1 p.m. and resumed at 2 p.m.
Seanad Éireann 102 Activities and Financing of CIE: Motion (Resumed).