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 Header Item Transport (Córas Iompair Éireann and Subsidiary Companies Borrowings) Bill 2012 [Seanad]: Second Stage (Continued)
 Header Item Business of Dáil: Motion
 Header Item Transport (Córas Iompair Éireann and Subsidiary Companies Borrowings) Bill 2012 [Seanad]: Second Stage (Resumed)

Friday, 7 December 2012

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 785 No. 4

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Debate adjourned.

Business of Dáil: Motion

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Michael Kitt Zoom on Michael Kitt I ask the Minister of State to make an announcement.

Minister of State at the Department of the Taoiseach (Deputy Paul Kehoe): Information on Paul Kehoe Zoom on Paul Kehoe I move:

That, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders or an Order of the Dáil of 6 December 2012 in relation to the sitting on Monday, 10 December 2012, the Dáil on its rising today shall adjourn until 11 a.m. on Tuesday, 11 December 2012.

  Question put and agreed to.

Transport (Córas Iompair Éireann and Subsidiary Companies Borrowings) Bill 2012 [Seanad]: Second Stage (Resumed)

  Question again proposed: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

Deputy Frank Feighan: Information on Frank Feighan Zoom on Frank Feighan I am delighted to speak on this Bill. It is technical legislation, but it gives me the opportunity to speak on a wide range of issues connected to CIE and the provision of public transport. The Minister, Deputy Varadkar, and Minister of State, Deputy Kelly, have been clear consistently on trying to return CIE to profitability. There are many issues within CIE that need to be addressed, but there are many positive developments there too.

Bus Éireann is one area where CIE could improve, although it is being challenged by many of the independent transport companies, especially on the Expressway routes. For instance, the buses from both Sligo and Westport to Dublin are not now calling into various villages, such as Carrick Castle in Mayo, and Elphin, Rooskey and Dromod. This has caused considerable concern and anger in many areas. The elderly, those who do not have their own transport, the unemployed who need to collect benefits and shoppers feel they have been left out, notwithstanding that the good work done by the NTA has been cynically undermined by those who are trying to use it for their own political advantage.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Michael Kitt Zoom on Michael Kitt Could we reduce the noise level for Deputy Feighan? Can we have respect for the speaker? I do not think they can hear me up there at the back. Deputies should reduce the noise level. Deputy Feighan has the floor.

Deputy Frank Feighan: Information on Frank Feighan Zoom on Frank Feighan I thank the Leas-Cheann Comhairle for that protection. Most of them are my own colleagues.

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath All of them are.

Deputy Frank Feighan: Information on Frank Feighan Zoom on Frank Feighan Nothing has changed in the political scene.

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath There is no sign of Deputy Luke 'Ming' Flanagan.

Deputy Frank Feighan: Information on Frank Feighan Zoom on Frank Feighan It is all right. Those opposite I can see; it is the ones behind me I cannot.

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath They are more dangerous too.

Deputy Frank Feighan: Information on Frank Feighan Zoom on Frank Feighan Much of the time when one is trying to explain why the Government cannot subside Expressway routes it seems lost on many who say that we are giving a subvention to CIE and should assert that the buses should stop at every town and village. I am annoyed that this is so but I understand the reasoning behind it. I have worked closely with Bus Éireann, certainly in Sligo, to try to achieve a compromise on the matter. The fact is that if one takes the Bus Éireann service from Sligo to Dublin, as I do on occasion, and which is quite good value, it takes three hours and 30 minutes. There are private licensed operators which leave Sligo, stop in Carrick-on-Shannon and on the by-pass in Longford, effectively picking up 50% or 60% of those travelling, and get to Dublin in less than two hours. CIE faces considerable challenges. Unfortunately, it could lose its customers on those routes, but it also has an obligation to try to deliver for everybody. I say that because CIE was working closely with the NTA and with rural transport to try to fill in the gaps, but sometimes it can be a race to the bottom where the private licensed operators cherry-pick the major population centres.

A major population centre such as Sligo town has as many customers as 40 villages. The position is the same as when people resisted a by-pass for a town where every other town wanted it because one would get to and from Dublin or wherever as quickly as possible. We are working closely with the NTA to get this arrangement sorted out. I have worked closely in Ballinamore, which is a big town which had no public transport links to the major towns. We achieved a compromise in Elphin and Carrick Castle and I am working closely to achieve a compromise so that the service will come off the main road into Dromod, and also in Rooskey. Dromod is not as bad as Rooskey because Dromod is on the Sligo railway line to Dublin, but Rooskey is a difficulty. I still cannot understand why Bus Éireann could not come off the dual carriageway and use the old N4 because the route is shorter and it would only take a minute longer. This issue has caused so much anger. Sometimes it is difficult for us as politicians to get involved to resolve such matters, especially when there are others who are clearly presenting as fact something that is incorrect.

During the Celtic tiger, many who came into the country, especially those from Poland, did not have their own cars and used public transport in Dublin, the major cities and in rural areas. People got on at every bus stop, but now, because of the recession, there is a significant loss of revenue for Bus Éireann and CIE.

I pay tribute to Irish Rail. It provides a great service on the Sligo-Dublin line and many others. It is competitive and it is wonderful. However, sometimes the cost of tickets is exorbitant. If I want to take a train in the morning from Sligo to Dublin, it will cost €35. While I believe the free travel scheme is necessary and it is wonderful that anybody over 65 can avail of it, in some aspects the scheme is being abused. One area I feel it is being abused is where, in a certain town or city, a retired senior civil servant, because he has free travel, takes the Friday train to Heuston Station in Dublin where he has a coffee or a pint, and meets his son, who works for a major firm in Dublin, in the afternoon. Not alone that, the son can travel free with his father as the accompanying passenger back to wherever they go. Not alone are he and the young fellow getting free travel, the poor unfortunate who is paying the full price for his or her travel must stand up so this young man can sit with his father. That is where it is abused. There are some aspects where people must enter into the spirit of the scheme. An accompanying passenger where somebody is disabled or needs a hand is a worthy measure but, in some respects, the scheme is much abused, and this is worth looking into.

I pay tribute to the professionalism of the bus drivers and the train drivers, and all the staff who are courteous. Even on Dublin Bus, people, especially those coming up from the country who do not know where they are going, are shown great courtesy, which I respect. One does not mind asking a bus driver which stop is appropriate, and I appreciate that.


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