MIONTUAIRISC NA FIANAISE
(Minutes of Evidence)
Dé Céadaoin, 25 Aibreán, 1979
Wednesday, 25 April, 1979
CÓRAS IOMPAIR ÉIREANN
Dr. Liam St. J. Devlin, Chairman, Mr. J. F. Higgins, General Manager, and Mr. M. Grace, Assistant General Manager, of Córas Iompair Éireann called and examined.
Chairman.—We are dealing with two areas today, the overall role of CIE and the transport services in Dublin. We intend to take the other areas next week—the railways, the provincial bus services, road freight and other activities. As far as questions are concerned, members of the Committee will direct their questions to the Chairman of CIE and it is up to him either to answer himself or to pass them on to his team.
1. Senator Cooney.—I shall start with the CIE subvention which is something that attracts a lot of comment from time to time. In 1978 the Estimate provided for a subvention of £30 million but by the end of the year it had risen to £37.7 million. I should like to know how the excess occurred, how early in 1978 it was realised that there was going to be an excess, whether the Government were informed and what the reaction was generally?
Dr. Devlin.—First, we must ask the question: how is the deficit determined and how is it forecast? We start in August or September and the Government lay down for us guidelines in regard to wages and maximum material costs. Although at that stage we feel we are not preparing a realistic budget, nevertheless it is the practice of all Governments that they lay down guidelines and we work out the budget for the year on that basis. Inevitably what happens is that the deficit or the subvention is pitched at a point which we know at the beginning of each year is impossible to meet. For example, last year our forecast of the deficit was £33.5 million on the basis of certain wage rates and fare increases. The Department decided on £30 million because that was all that was available at that stage so that we were down £3,500,000 before we started. During the year the national wage agreement was in excess of the guidelines, material costs exceeded the limits placed on us, there was a delay in the implementation of the rates and fares increases and the deficit finally amounted to £37 million. The question one might ask is: “Are you working in the dark”? We are not. At the end of each period we provide for the Board an analysis of what has happened, we show performance against the budget for that period and then, as a result of changes which may have occurred or trends established, we forecast the likely outcome for the year and we notify the Department each period as to what the possible outcome will be I have brought certain documents with me as an example. We do not change the budget. We work to the budget and take into account the variances. For instance in Period 9, September 1978, the budget for the railways was £31 million of a loss, but the forecast at that stage was £30 million; as a result of savings. The budget for Dublin City Services was £4½ million but the outlook was roughly £5 million The Vote does not correspond to the real situation.
We bridge the increased deficit in two ways, by increased subvention and increased fares. No Government will tell you what the increased rates and fares may be because they have to take into account other factors in the economy and, therefore, we are never sure when we will get an increase in fares or when we can implement it. That applies to all Governments, and it is understandable. I can let you have a copy of the report for any period. It sets out the performance against budget, the positive and negative variances. It sets out the justification or the reason for these, and the Department is kept advised each period of the outcome.
2. Deputy W. O’Brien.—Would it not be more satisfactory if there were to be a greater understanding of the position at the start of the year? Is it satisfactory to find yourself out by, say, £5½ million at the end of a year?
Dr. Devlin.—One must understand that we are operating in a political atmosphere. It would be very nice if we could have it all tidied up at the beginning of the year; that a sum would be fixed and that we should be forced to stay within it. In practice we cannot do that. For example, supposing we were to write into the budget for the current year a wage increase of 11 per cent when in fact it may be 9 per cent, it could be said we had jumped the gun and provided for 11 per cent in our forecast. One must take such things into account. That is the practical aspect. One cannot have it all nice and tidy. What is important in my view is that the board and management know from period to period what the position will be at the end of the year unless we take action. As long as we keep the Department informed of our forecasts, which can be reasonably accurate, that is what is important.
3. Senator Cooney.—I suggest that the amount of Government subvention has no real bearing on your budgetary commitments—you have certain budgetary commitments and as each year goes by if the amount of subvention is exceeded because of demand for these commitments then CIE will automatically look to the Exchequer to top up, taking into consideration whatever savings have been made. Essentially subvention in the public service estimates might have no reality to CIE’s financial requirements for the coming year.
Dr. Devlin.—It would be an exaggeration to say it would have no reality. I think it is always pitched at £2 or £3 million or maybe more under what it looks like to us but this is good discipline. If we got as much as we asked for, we would still do our best; but it is very good discipline to be tied down to a lower figure. I said to the Department at the beginning of our retrenchment period in 1975 that I had no objection to them putting a squeeze on us and felt that it would help us in the steps we felt were necessary to take. So I think it is good discipline. It may not be accurate economics but it is good practice.
4. Deputy L. Lawlor.—In your report for 1977 it is stated in regard to the subvention that it is unfortunate for CIE that satisfactory techniques have not been developed to measure value for money. How can CIE get a fairer public image in those circumstances?
Dr. Devlin.—Everybody has a go at CIE and I do not think that very many appreciate the tremendous dedication and commitment that there is at all levels in CIE. Despite all the flak there are men in CIE ignoring the flak and doing a good job. That is the real measure of what is happening in CIE. If the Government Department had the ability to measure value for money and if we were given a directive as to what any Government wanted us to do then we could demonstrate whether we were good, moderate or bad. But there is nothing to measure our achievements against. In a way, the good thing about the Transport Acts is that they give us the discretion to decide which social services we will operate. That is a good thing but we have to take a lot of flak as a result of that because we are in the middle. However it is much better than in other countries where every change of government changes the emphasis on the social or commercial side; this makes for poor management because one cannot have consistent management. Our Acts are very good in that we are given certain freedoms; we take the decisions; we carry the responsibility but at least we can manage whereas if we have different governments with changing strategies it could make management very difficult.
5. Deputy L. Lawlor.—Have CIE any recommendations as to how satisfactory techniques could be availed of to get the idea across that they are doing an efficient job? Can CIE change reporting procedures to highlight the profit making and efficient sectors?
Dr. Devlin.—The first thing we must do is get a definitive policy. We have to be measured against something and therefore we must have a definitive policy. The Government will have to say what they intend for the railway in the long run. The Government will have to say what they intend for the other activities that we operate. We need that sort of commitment initially and then our progress can be measured. The way the system works at present is that we establish what quantum of services we can give for the amount of money that is available. 1975 was a disastrous year because wage increases brought about an increase of £14 million in the deficit. In the next year the increase was £9.4 million and subsequently it dropped to £6 million, and to £4 million. When we had an increase of £14 million the Board realised that we could be looking for £50 million within a year or two. There was a fear that we would get money to meet the current deficit but that we would not get money to meet investment and if we were to get ourselves out of the rut we had to get money for investment. So we commenced a retrenchment programme. We had also the view that perhaps our industrial relations policy has been too successful in that a job in CIE which was a well-paid job at one time was now a moderately paid job. Therefore, if we were to improve customer relations—and we have a very large interface with people—each employee in CIE must be satisfied that he had a good job; he must be able to hold his head up not alone among his colleagues in CIE but among his social colleagues. Our retrenchment programme had two aims: to contain the deficit and to find ways and means within the national agreement of raising basic pay. We brought these two together and through productivity we were able to achieve an increase in the basic pay. For us productivity had to mean a reduction in numbers because we had to contain costs. Since 1975 we have reduced the numbers by 3,600 and increased our total output as well. We had to take this type of decision. On the other hand there has to be some indication by the Government as to what their long term wishes are because the lead time in all of our activities is long. If we take an investment decision today it may take three years to implement it.
6. Chairman.—What about the long term objectives of the Government? May I take it that the subvention for the year decided upon by the Government is not just a global figure but a figure which is related to the several aspects of the activities of CIE?
Dr. Devlin.—No, it is a global figure. We produce our budget. We argue that budget with the Department. The Department suggests changes and that can go on for six to eight weeks. The Department have their negotiations with the Department of Finance and at the end of that they may say that they are only able to give us £30 million and we are expected to do something about cutting expenditure further. We come back and say that we have a programme to cut down the costs, that we may be able to improve on the original £34 or £35 million but the Government must realise that we have to cope with the next wage agreement which may be in excess of the guidelines they have given us.
7. Chairman.—Surely if during the course of the discussions the Government say that CIE are looking for too much in a particular area and that what they are looking for in another area is reasonable, they indicate, certainly in the short term, whatever about the long term, what Government policy and objectives are?
Dr. Devlin.—No, they do not go into that much detail. They go into detail on the capital side but not on the current side. The fact that they cannot go into too much detail on the current side gives rise to a lot of detail on the capital side. We would prefer if it were the other way round because even having argued each aspect of the capital expenditure we are still given a blanket amount and we have to determine the priorities within that capital amount.
8. Deputy Kenneally.—With regard to the subvention of £37.7 million for last year, is a percentage of that capital or is it all for operational losses?
Dr. Devlin.—That is all current.
9. Deputy Kenneally.—Where does the money for capital come from?
Dr. Devlin.—At the same time as the current budget we go to the Government with our capital requirements for the following year. For example, last year we went looking for £30 million capital for 1979 and we are being allowed £15 million. We finance about 60 per cent of the capital from our own depreciation. We may have to borrow the rest. There is no voted capital. Occasionally there might be a small amount——
10. Deputy Kenneally.—But you were voted £37.7 million last year for operational losses?
Dr Devlin.—The greater part of that, as can be seen from the figures I have given, is to finance the railway deficit. Last year the railways cost something like £31 million, Dublin city services cost £5 million and everything else more or less balanced.
11. Deputy W. O’Brien.—What causes the losses in railways?
Dr. Devlin.—There is very extensive infrastructure on the railway. What is needed to make the railway pay is volume. The methods we were using up to four or five years ago were very labour-intensive. We had goods stores in every location and we had 10 or 20 men working two shifts. We have changed all that. We do not have goods stores now because all the processing is done in Dublin, sundries are put into 10 ft boxes, which arrive at the location, are taken from the train, put into a lorry and delivered immediately. It takes time to build up the volume. We are at the in-between stage now. We have been able to reduce the manning of the railways substantially—by about 2,600. We need to increase volume. The present situation is that the Government have to decide whether they should invest further in the railway, and allow CIE to increase their coaching stock. At the moment our rail passenger service is used to full capacity But we need a long-term decision. The Government may say that CIE are losing £30 million at the moment, and that perhaps they should let it wither away. It is a difficult situation, and the railway suffers because of the indecision.
12. Deputy W. O’Brien.—Do CIE intend to expand the rail services in the future?
Dr. Devlin.—We want to increase the number of coaches for rail passengers. We need 100 coaches straightaway. We are going ahead with upgrading the track. As indicated, in the booklet I gave the Committee, when the pressure is on to cut railway expenditure, there is usually a cut back on the maintenance of the track. It is like the attitude that one might adopt in relation to papering one’s diningroom; that if it is not papered for another year, it will not be noticed. In a similar way rail track maintenance is deferred. In the last four years we have been trying to bring our track back into condition.
Chairman.—We are beginning to get into railways now.
Dr. Devlin.—The Government decisions have to do with the railways more than anything else.
Chairman.—We will deal with railways in detail next week.
13. Deputy O’Donnell.—In relation to State subvention, since 1974 CIE have been subject to EEC regulations governing the subvention. Has this change in the method of State subvention had any impact on the financial situation of CIE or were CIE happier under the overall blanket system?
Dr. Devlin.—It does not make any difference because the money comes from the same source.
14. Deputy O’Donnell.—But subject to criteria which were not used before?
Dr. Devlin.—It is a case of the Government finding another formula to give us the same money. It mattered a lot to French railways, because in France all that funding is being done “above the line”. French railways can say “we have a profit or a surplus of £70 million” because the funding has been done “above the line”. In our case it has been done “below the line”.
15. Deputy O’Donnell.—Has it helped to identify the social dimension of CIE rather than the economic dimension?
Dr. Devlin.—In practice all it means is that one is putting a different name on the way funds are given and they are split in different ways.
16. Deputy O’Donnell.—In other words the EEC regulations are not effective?
Dr. Devlin.—The practical effect of the EEC regulations on CIE is that we will get no money for road freight and no money for hotels. We will get money for running the railway, 50 per cent of the infrastructural grant for a freight railway, and money for Dublin buses if needed. All these grants fit within the formula.
17. Deputy O’Donnell.—Is there any maximum figure for a subvention?
18. Deputy O’Donnell.—You referred to the policy of retrenchment in 1974/75. What effect did that have on the financing situation of CIE?
Dr. Devlin.—I did a calculation at the end of last year on this and we reckon that we saved £12.1 million per annum. Our wages at the moment would have been £12.1 million more.
19. Deputy Fitzsimons.—Was the retrenchment in manpower or in services or in both?
Dr. Devlin.—Both. For example, we had to implement new systems which were not as labour-intensive as the original systems. We had to take more commercial decisions. The outcome on the wages side was a saving of £12½ million in 1978. We did not calculate the benefit in services. We certainly increased our rail passenger services enormously. However, we need two or three years for the new systems to show a substantial improvement on the other aspects of operating.
There are three subventions. In 1978 the subvention allowed was £38 million and we got £37½ million. We carried the rest ourselves in one way or another.
20. Deputy Fitzsimons.—In relation to overmanning, is it CIE’s intention to cut down on numbers in the Dublin bus services, taking into account that there are complications in relation to one-man operated buses? Is it CIE’s intention to go ahead with that if the trade unions are agreeable? Do CIE think that the double-decker bus, which operates in Dublin is suitable for a one-man operation?
Dr. Devlin.—We see a further reduction of numbers on the railway as we introduce new systems. We would like to have had the benefit of one-man buses in Dublin city. We have been trying for the last 10 or 11 years for agreement. I met the unions and appealed to them to negotiate but some unions refused to negotiate. We had allowed the numbers on the buses to fall back but we had to increase them again because the quality of the service had suffered. We have been recruiting for the Dublin city services and we are still 200 or 300 short. Last year we recruited something like 300 drivers and about 600 conductors and we had wastage of about 700, so our net gain was only about 200. In regard to the hardware, is the Deputy talking about the hardware itself or its suitability——
Chairman.—We will be going on to the Dublin city services later. We are still on the overall role of CIE.
21. Senator Keating.—In relation to policy it seems that two slightly inconsistent things are being said which indicate that there is a balance point somewhere and I want to ask the Chairman of CIE where it is. The inconsistency seems to be this, that on the one hand the Chairman has said that the Act is vague and he has also said it is good; his suggestion is that he approved of the vagueness. On the other hand he has indicated—and looking at it from experience in Government it seems to me this is right—that there is no transport policy at Government level and, therefore, the framework within which he has to work is a very wide one. He said in regard to major decisions involving enormous capital investment that the Government have to decide and that the company suffers because of the indecision. I think these things are reconcilable; it is a question of a balance point. The question I wanted to ask is a very general one: how much transport policy do the company want? There is always policy; it is formulated and carried out even if nobody is aware of it. Currently you are to a very great extent formulating your own policy within very wide guidelines. If there were to be much clearer and stronger Government policy that would have some pluses and some minuses for you. There are two questions together: where do you see the balance point between freedom for the company on the one hand and a clearer, more definitive. Government policy on the other hand? If there is to be a balance point different from what currently exists, how do you see the mechanisms whereby the communication between yourselves and the Government, and possibly the forum for debate even at Oireachtas level, would be improved? Do we have any role in this? I really want to give you an opportunity to expound your views to us because we may be able to act as a conduit in this regard.
Dr. Devlin.—First, if I said the Transport Act was vague I did not mean that. What I meant was that the Act allowed us to determine the kind of mix and how we should operate the transport services. I think that is a good thing. If we are looking for Government capital funding in regard to a major development in transport we need a political commitment A political commitment may have implications for the next 10 or 20 years. People talk about a national transport policy but that means nothing. In my view, a national transport policy means legislating for the private sector as well as for the public sector and I cannot see that being done.
We need a transport policy for public transport and CIE; taxis and other people who operate public transport come into that. If there is a Government policy for public transport they may approve of railway development but once they make that commitment they also have to bring some influence to bear on the environment. I do not think you can legislate that people must send their traffic by CIE. It is up to the transport companies to get the business on a commercial basis and I believe they can. We can take a number of investment decisions on our own but there are certain decisions we cannot take on our own, particularly with regard to the railways. This is understandable because these have long-term implications. For example, with regard to the suburban railways, what worried both Governments was that if they agreed to the electrification of the suburban line in Dublin were they committed to the Dublin rapid transit plan? I do not think they are, but this thought caused a lot of trouble. Governments have to think about these matters, analyse them and question if there is a better way. That is the basis of Government decisions.
As regards the mechanism, I welcome the establishment of the Oireachtas committee because it gives us an opportunity to discuss our problems in this forum and I think this is the way it should be done I do not think we should bring Deputies and Senators down to CIE to lobby them and say we are doing this or that. It is much better to have a formal forum like this where there is an interchange of views We also need to have a forum for discussion of the Dublin city services. All the people who influence the environment should be part of a co-ordinating committee. These are structures which can be established.
I want to emphasise that many of these problems cannot be resolved in a tidy way because one must take account of the political realities with which all Governments have to cope.
22. Deputy L. Lawlor.—Are you being tough enough with the Government?
Dr. Devlin.—We have constraints because we are in the public sector. If we are any good at managing we must manage within those constraints. If we were in the private sector we would still have to work within constraints but they would be different—perhaps constraints of finance or something like that. I do not think it is a case of being tough enough with the Government. Perhaps we have not been successful in selling the concept of public transport. I think we need to sell that to more than the Government.
23. Deputy L. Lawlor.—Your whole capital investment programme appears to be affected by indecision which obviously causes you worry and concern. A major investment is required in Dublin. In 1973 the first recommendation was for £111 million now it is up to £220 million, but no decision has yet been made. Rolling stock throughout the country is being run down. The whole investment requirement of CIE is in a tatty state and that is why I ask if you are being tough enough. You do not appear to be getting decisions quickly enough and the situation is deteriorating rapidly.
Dr. Devlin.—The exception is the railway. We are happy enough in the other areas. It is within our responsibility to decide on investment in the other areas. It is not just the Government; the country needs to make up its mind on what kind of railway it wants, whether it sees—as I do—the railway having a greater future than its past in the context of the best use of energy. I think we are running a very good railway and we have done a lot for the infrastructure. We need a commitment from the whole country. If the Government say they will give us £40 million or £90 million for investment in the railway, they have to defend that decision—thus we need a national commitment in the first instance.
We are happy enough about the bus situation. We have a lot of problems but it is within our power to resolve them. We are happy enough about our other activities. Like any enterprise we have to determine our priorities; we cannot have everything at once but we need a commitment on the railway. I do not mind if the national commitment is that we wind up the railway. At least we should know.
24. Deputy B. Desmond.—I should like to have a broad comment on this: do you feel that there is now a somewhat more serious situation because in the last half decade there has been a malaise in relation to public transport policy? I will put a number of key points. You have reduced staff in those five years by 20 per cent; by 3,600. You need massive capital investment—you have mentioned the urgent need for 100 new rail coaches. You have concluded a series of productivity agreements over the years, five in all, and there is a limit, even if you had one-man buses throughout the city, to the ultimate improvement in productivity. Notwithstanding that, it appears that public subsidisation of CIE has varied in recent years from £30 million to £37 million in 1978. if you add in supplementary allocations. Therefore, there is the argument that the malaise has now reached the point where definite decisions will have to be taken. Otherwise the system—I will not say “collapse”—will reach the point where deterioration will be accelerated almost in a geometric way. Can you confirm for us whether we would be correct in taking the most serious view of the malaise during a period of six or seven years? I am thinking in the context of our report to the Oireachtas.
Dr. Devlin.—I do not think the malaise has been in the context of CIE’s internal operations. In our publication, The Way Ahead, we stated that we were reducing numbers but that as we were in a developing business we wanted to increase pay at the same time. A number of the elements in that plan have been implemented, but we are becoming conscious of a national indifference, particularly to the railways. The nation must face up to whether it wants a railway system. That is a matter on which we need a national decision. We are at a full stop now—we cannot move. There is the danger that all the good we have done in the past four years will be undermined.
25. Deputy B. Desmond.—If one segregates the various operations, I think it is fair to say that industrial relations in the rail operative side have been remarkably good.
Dr. Devlin.—Industrial relations in the whole of CIE have been remarkably good. People are inclined to look at CIE and to speak about the 25 trade unions and ask: “How on earth can they cope with them?” We can cope very well with the trade union situation. There will be the mavericks, but we have had a very good relationship with all of our trade union leaders, and with our men. Of course if somebody walks up and down outside our Clontarf garage with a strike notice and he has some personal grievance, it could inconvenience 10,000 or 20,000 people in the morning, and that would make it appear that CIE are always in trouble. All our groups have been very good, the rail operatives in particular. I have submitted to you the history of industrial relations for the past three or four years which I regard by any measure to be a very good history.*
26. Deputy O’Donnell.—You kind of pooh-poohed the idea of a national transport policy, and yet you come along later in the context of the railway system and say there is need for the nation to think of it. From the point of view of the future of the railways, do you not agree there is need for some kind of transport strategy and planning? I think the problem in relation to the railways has been that we tend to look at them per se, in isolation from the overall national transport scene. Do you not think that the future of the railways must be looked at in the context of overall transport planning and strategy?
Dr. Devlin.—To me, a national transport plan must include the private sector as well. By all means we need a policy in regard to public transport and the role public transport should play in the community. That includes the railways. Public transport also includes the buses and the taxis.
27. Deputy O’Donnell.—Would you go so far as to say that, in the absence of some kind of national transportation plan, we cannot realistically determine the future of the railways in the general transport system?
Dr. Devlin.—That is true. We should look at other countries. They go out to plan for public transport and the role it will play in the community. They commit vast sums to it; in some places, I suggest, too large sums. If one visits some Continental countries one can see the kind of luxurious garages they have. I think that is overdoing it, but it is indicative of a national commitment to public transport.
28. Deputy O’Donnell.—But we have not that here?
Dr. Devlin.—I can understand the political problems: you have got to think politically as well as of transport theory and strategy. We are in a very difficult situation because the environment is against us in Dublin and perhaps in other places. If we call for a national public transport policy we are asking people for faith in our ability to provide good transport if the environment aids public transport.
29. Deputy W. O’Brien.—Can you envisage that in five years the railways will have preference over private cars?
Dr. Devlin.—For too long we have tended to look at the railways in the context of the size of the population along the routes. There is no doubt that we can increase our market share if we provide an alternative to the car. We do that on the Dublin-Cork route, we can do it on the Galway route. We cannot do it on the Waterford route because of the infrequency of service. We can do it in Limerick and marginally in Sligo. What we must do is to create a situation where the option is open. In the southern region, Tralee, Limerick, Cork, we have a wonderful service, and I think we could increase our market share in the other areas if we provide frequency, comfort and shorter journey times. There are three components: there is the quality of the track, the quality of the stock and the signalling. We have spent money on the quality of the track in the past three or four years. We are doing what we can to improve signalling. We need new rolling stock.
Chairman.—We come back to the railway no matter what topic we are discussing.
30. Senator Cooney.—It has been suggested that the solution to our transport problems would be to hive off some of the public sector to the private sector. I should like you to comment on that. Could it be done? Should it be done in terms of the national advantage? We would welcome a general comment.
Dr. Devlin.—Obviously we cannot divest ourselves of the railways. On the road freight side we have in fact divested operations which are not concerned with supporting the railway. The policy for road freight in CIE is to support the freight concept for the railway, that is, rail head and other operations which support the railway traffic.
At the moment we have excellent cooperation from the private sector in regard to school transport. Indeed, a lot of school transport is carried out by the private sector. We believe that we, as a national organisation, should be operating express services provincially and that we should find some way of allowing the private sector to feed the express services. That may need certain subsidisation for the private sector. But we think that there is a role in local areas for the private sector to involve itself in public transport. Urban transport must be our responsibility because that will always need to be heavily subsidised. In regard to road freight we have divested ourselves of a lot of activity which was in competition with the private sector and left it to the private sector.
Senator Cooney.—In effect you say that CIE should essentially continue as they are under their present transport policy.
Chairman.—Does anyone wish to ask any other question on the overall role of CIE?
31. Deputy L. Lawlor.—The Chairman of the board of CIE seems to play an everyday executive role within CIE and yet has a lot of other responsibilities. How does the executive-cum-board function operate within CIE?
Dr. Devlin.—I give 75 per cent of my time to CIE. When I joined the board of CIE I felt it necessary to maintain some of my private sector interests because I felt that this gave me a degree of independence which I might not have had if I was a full-time Chairman. I do not get involved in executive activity at all. The general manager is responsible for executive management, but I visit every location and meet most of the people in CIE throughout the year and I am responsible for helping management to formulate policy decisions by making an input to policy proposals before they come to the board. The board develops and decides policy. I do not get involved in management. I sometimes meet the trade unions. In the case of the one-man buses I met each of the trade unions involved, and I met the trade unions regularly during our retrenchment programme. The purpose of these meetings was to convey to them the policy of the board, not to become involved in negotiation. This was a way in which the board could communicate policy to the trade unions and it also gave the trade unions an opportunity to question those policies. I monitor the implementation of policy, and that is why I travel to all the areas of CIE activity and meet the personnel involved and frequently address the executive management.
32. Deputy L. Lawlor.—The Chairman of the board made a point that, nationally, people must decide what they want, but that CIE and the politicians have to decide what to give them. We seem to be in a drift situation. The Government are very concerned about the investment situation. CIE are not going places at the moment, unless the Government makes up its mind about the colossal amount of investment needed. I represent a constituency in Dublin with two developing towns and we are not happy. The way ahead for CIE at the moment appears very clouded. In Government major decisions must be made. Is the Chairman of the board saying that what is politically feasible, is really a problem for us on this side of the table and that CIE must continually dress up what is politically feasible for the Government of the day?
Dr. Devlin.—The board has to be aware of the political implications; it is otherwise for management. They do not apply the political yardstick. That is a matter for the board. Perhaps we should call it political feasibility. When I talk about a national commitment, I include the need for politicians to talk favourably about CIE and its role. That is what we have always lacked. CIE is the organisation that everybody can have a go at, and we do not hit back. If we get support from the politicians, we would get a national commitment. If the Minister said that he would give £200 million to CIE there would be immediate uproar, but if he said he would allow the ESB to spend £300 million on building a power station there would be no problem. That is because we are looked at as a loss making State-sponsored body, while the post office and medical services are looked on as essential services and, because they are financed from Departmental votes, there is no question of losses. But the contract price for our service is looked upon as a loss.
Deputy W. O’Brien.—Not so much now as before.
33. Senator Cooney.—With regard to the board of CIE, the Chairman of the board mentioned that he gave 75 per cent of his time to CIE affairs. How does he see the role of the board of CIE and how would he like to see its role—as an initiating board, or as a board reflecting on what he finds in his travels around the country, or in his discussions with management or with us? Does the Chairman of the board see the board as initiating policy, or what should its input be?
Dr. Devlin.—I have an excellent board. The board must become involved in the early stages of policy development. You cannot have a board rubber-stamping policy put forward by management without full discussion. The evolution of policy must take place at the board. We have always introduced issues to the board maybe a year or 14 months before they come to the stage of requiring policy decision. As part of this process individual managers make presentations to the board. In this way the board is involved from the start and the authority of the board is stamped on the ultimate policy. In a crunch situation, political or otherwise, a board will only show a solid front if it has been a party to the decisions that gave rise to the situation. It is important that that solidarity is there, even if it is never needed, and that the board be involved in every step along the way. My concern at the moment is that we have a small board of seven and we are proposing to extend it to 12 because of worker participation; but because we are so big the unions are seeking a board of 15. That is a big board for this sort of exercise but I hope we can cope with it.
34. Senator Keating.—In relation to communications, the point has been fairly made, although the words were not used, that CIE is a whipping boy, and that a lot more people in public life attack them than defend them. That raises the question of the quality of communication from CIE to the public and to the politicians. I do not mean PR in this context; that is entirely different. Questions are raised for example by consumer associations whether there should be a transport users council, whether there should be some corporate planning and whether there should be publication of what goes on at meetings. We now get sophisticated journalists in the area of public transportation and if matters were public we might get a more informed public debate. Is there room for a more sophisticated, non-advertising but deeply informational contact with the public and politicians that can be approved?
Dr. Devlin.—About two years ago we changed the whole nature of what we called the Public Relations Department. We renamed it the Department of Information and Communication. We laid it on the line that communication was primarily an internal problem and then it was to be external. External communications in Dublin have been directed to the communities. We have gone to the various groups, professional as well as the tenants groups, and we have kept them aware of our aims for Dublin and the problems which we meet. That is being done by inspectors in the garages, by our headquarters staff and by many others. The present surge of goodwill for public transport in Dublin has been stimulated by that quiet but real communication.
One reason for the booklet The Way Ahead was to give a document to all managers of CIE so that they could be consistent in selling what we are trying to do. That helped considerably in the regions. It is a tricky business because the media knock you down if you make progress too obviously. You must get to the people. I think we are succeeding but it takes a long time.
35. Senator Cooney.—One of the things you have to do, something that is not sufficiently understood, is to provide sometimes an uneconomic service in a social situation. What are the criteria used when considering an investment proposal in that area? Have there been any recently?
Dr. Devlin.—If it is a big investment proposal we use the usual economic measures—time-saving, conservation of energy and many other factors. Rapid transit would be a big project. If it is a matter of day to day service we have a more pragmatic approach. We decide where we can do the best good and we give an opportunity to communities to develop a service. We monitor these services. I have with me the complete computer printout for our road passenger services for every period. On this print out we have for each individual service in the country the number of passengers carried in the period, the number of miles, the wages paid, the running costs, the overheads, the revenue, the total cost, the profit or loss, the cost per mile in pence and the variations from budget. We have also the cumulative figure for the periods to date. Each area management gets the relevant portion of the print out. They analyse the data and they may decide that a service is not being supported to the extent hoped for, and even though it may be a social service they may decide to put in another service. There is a continuing examination. We have limited resources and have to do the best we can. This is how we monitor road passenger services.
36. Chairman.—Is it over a day or a week?
Dr. Devlin.—Over four weeks.
37. Senator Cooney.—In effect are you saying that in an area where there is a social dimension you are applying commercial criteria?
Dr. Devlin.—We are not applying a profit criterion but a containment of loss criterion.
38. Senator Cooney.—For example, a branch railway in the West of Ireland may not be very profitable and you may be looking at it with a view to closing it. What criteria are taken into consideration in coming to a decision?
Dr. Devlin.—The railway is a separate issue. We withdrew services from the Claremorris to Limerick line. I spoke of maintenance of the railway and the money that must be spent on that. The board took the view that we spread the money too thinly and that we tried to satisfy too many people and in the end didn’t satisfy many. If the railway is to have a future we must develop it and we must recover some of the ground we have lost on maintenance. We decided to have a radial railway that would operate from Dublin to Sligo, Dublin to Westport, and Dublin to Galway etc. We also decided that we would cut out the inter-radial services and use bus services instead. We ploughed the money saved into the radial services where we felt we could get an increased market share. That was the justification for the radial railway concept. In fact, we are carrying more people on elements of that service between Claremorris and Limerick than when we were operating the railway link. We adopt a pragmatic approach towards bus services.
We experimented with a minibus service between Birr and Roscrea on the basis that a minibus could be written off in five years, and that we would have a saving on the investment cost. We tried a minibus service in various areas; some were successful and some were not too successful. We considered that if that worked in providing a community service we would extend the concept. The demand for new services is increasing all the time because of the number of people over 66 years who have free transport passes.
39. Senator Cooney.—Your projected deficit for 1980 is down considerably, down to £26 million in constant price terms.
Dr. Devlin.—That was in real terms in 1976. That £26 million would be equivalent to £37 million now in current terms.
40. Senator Cooney.—Do you expect to achieve your target this year?
Dr. Devlin.—The £26 million comes from the document The Way Ahead, where we projected £26 million in 1976 terms. The subvention agreed this year is £35 million. This was on the basis that we would implement the increased fares on 9 April but we have not yet got the go-ahead. The subvention was also based on a 6 per cent national wage agreement. We have added £4 million as a result of the busmen’s award and another £3 million as a result of the 9 per cent. Additional fuel costs could amount to a further £4 million.
Senator Cooney.—There will be very little for social services.
41. Chairman.—In the course of various observations you have talked about not getting the approval of Governments from time to time to increase prices. Even if you were given a completely free hand about this, I take it the law of diminishing returns would operate. To what extent have your problems during the years been caused by the fact that there is control of prices? To look at it another way, if there was no control of prices, do you think you would be in a healthier position and that your overall position would be substantially better?
Dr. Devlin.—It is fair to say that we would not be better off in numbers, but we would be better off in money. These days we get an increase every year, but some years ago the increases were irregular. What we are always up against is the effect of inflation. If for example you start with operating expenses of £100 million and your revenue is £80 million. If inflation doubles your operating costs, they will become £200 million. If you only double the revenue, you are £40 million out—the deficit will also be doubled. That is the problem we are up against these days. We must earn revenue at a faster rate than inflation, and that is impossible in the sort of business we are in—a mixture of social and commercial services.
42. Deputy W. O’Brien.—If you got sanction for a fares increase now, what more do you think you would earn in this year?
Dr. Devlin.—We would get only £7½ million from a national fare increase. A 25 per cent fares increase in the Dublin city services would only just meet the cost of the recent Labour Court award. We must look at overall economics. In Dublin city we get some 82 per cent of our expenditure from the fare box. In some European countries the fare box contribution is only 30 per cent. Lille is 30 per cent, Paris 35 per cent, 60 per cent in Britain and in Sweden it is about 50 per cent. That is as a result of the policy of those Governments.
Chairman.—We will now move to the Dublin transport services, which include the suburban railways.
43. Deputy B. Desmond.—If you were to get the Dublin rapid transit system going, including electrification of the suburban line from Howth to Bray, would you still need to proceed with the coach-building business at Inchicore—would that be part of your overall coach-building plans? Earlier you spoke of an urgent need of 100 new coaches.
Dr. Devlin.—In the past if we went to the Government we had to wait a long time before being told we could get 40 or 50 coaches. In the meanwhile we had to start patching and rebuilding old coaches in the Inchicore works. We have commissioned studies on how the railway should be developed up to the end of the century, and we have no doubt that we would need as many as 400 new coaches between now and the year 2000. We believe it is possible to develop a viable coach-building business at Inchicore. There is a great difference between maintaining coaches and building them—they are two totally different operations. Our view is that we should establish a viable coach production industry, some of which we could export. For that reason we had negotiations with a German public sector undertaking with a view to building passenger rolling stock in Ireland for CIE and export If we are to have commitment to our railways, then there is sufficient business to keep a good coach-building undertaking busy.
44. Deputy B. Desmond.—You could not get such a business going in the morning. How soon could you start to have coaches built?
Dr. Devlin.—Two-and-a-half years ago we agreed in principle, and we had all the documentation ready for the German firm to commence. They have had discussions with the IDA and we have allocated space for them at Inchicore. If they were to come in we could have coaches built there by the beginning of 1981.
45. Deputy B. Desmond.—Would this coincide with your statement that your present train services in Dublin cannot be maintained beyond three years at most?
Dr. Devlin.—In regard to the suburban services in Dublin, the lemon has been squeezed dry. Our coaches have been rebuilt and rebuilt and re-engined, and they cannot stand any more. There is a limit to what we can do. Passengers are travelling in the guard’s van—and glad to do it. The great advantage of travelling by suburban railway is that if you get the 8.20 a.m. train you know you will be at O’Connell Bridge by 8.45 a.m. If you get the 8.20 bus, God knows when you will get to O’Connell Street. People who once got the 8.15 bus now get the 7.45 bus. If you go by rail you know you will get to the city in a reasonable time. Our plan is to electrify the suburban line and to have feeder bus services at the stations. That electrification plan has become confused with rapid transit for Dublin. In designing for electrification we took into account the possibility of integrating the signalling system, the electrical system, and so forth, with the rapid transit system. There is a feeling that we are promoting the rapid transit scheme. We are not. We want to deal with the immediate problem of refurbishing the existing suburban line.
46. Deputy B. Desmond.—It has been suggested by groups and individuals that the CIE proposals are somewhat ambitious, that the State would be better off with a mixture of private cars and public transport with improved parking regulations, better roads, throughways, better ring roads and so on—that for the next ten years that would meet the problem. Personally, I do not share that view but I would be anxious to get the reaction of the CIE chairman to that kind of halfway house position.
Dr. Devlin.—I think the more roads you build the more congestion you will have in the city because the roads will be filled. Something must be done about the suburban line. One suggestion is that we should concentrate on diesel. If we do that we are condemning the operation to diesel for the next 30 years. We would not be taking into account the environmental problems, which will become more serious —the noise, the fumes and so on.
47. Deputy B. Desmond.—Have CIE done any studies on the distance that commuters are prepared to walk from their homes to board CIE transport?
Dr. Devlin.—Yes, indeed, and there are international standards for that too. Ten minutes is the usual time to a railhead or a bus stop and that is a half a mile.
48. Deputy B. Desmond.—People would walk a half a mile?
Dr. Devlin.—They would walk for 10 minutes. If that is translated into length it is about half a mile. In our design for stations about 60 to 70 per cent of people would have to walk less than 10 minutes and the other 30 per cent would have a 15 minute walk.
49. Deputy B. Desmond.—Are CIE happy that they would walk to their employment at the other end?
Dr. Devlin.—If a person is in Dun Laoghaire and is 20 minutes away from the station but knows that if he gets to the station he will be in Connolly Station at a specific time that 20 minutes does not matter because the total time can be quantified and is known. It is the unknown that makes the difference, for example, if one had to wait 20 minutes at the bus stop.
50. Deputy W. O’Brien.—May I lead on to a question that is not your direct responsibility and that is the question of traffic. One has seen in other places the bus lane working extremely well and giving high speed which is what people want. As things stand I have two primary objections to buses. Firstly, the schedules cannot be kept and one does not know when a bus is going to arrive. Secondly, when one gets into a bus, it moves too slowly. Both of these factors arise from the fact that nobody on earth could schedule for the traffic that exists. Bus lanes work very well in many places that I have personal experience of but we made, if I recall correctly, an extraordinarily half-hearted attempt in Dublin to introduce bus lanes and, because it was ill prepared and presented difficulty in the first week, we did not try any more. In the immediate term what can be done to move the buses faster?
Dr. Devlin.—We have been pushing for bus lanes for a long time and bus priorities —priority traffic signals, bus only streets and so on. The real problem is that they have not got the expertise in the Garda Síochána for traffic management. They have the last and final decision. That is the crux. We have traffic engineers; but the Gardaí have not got the same expertise. For example, we are looking for a contra-bus lane at Parliament Street by City Hall so the bus would swing across the bridge, go against traffic and then swing by City Hall and down Christchurch Place. That would save the bus going up to Capel Street bridge and into Thomas Street and right through all that complex at the top of Francis Street. That is a very small concession and we have been talking about that for the last 18 months. We have even identified the streets where this can be done.
51. Deputy W. O’Brien.—In a sense, in an area like traffic management the technical things are always easy because the technical things are known to the experts who are willing to consult the available data. But the problem is that there are other people who will not make their minds up. They are in fact the responsible people because the bottleneck is at some spot. I was giving you an answer in fact.
Dr. Devlin.—It is the answer because there is recruitment at a low level.
52. Deputy L. Lawlor.—Surely the confusion that exists in regard to the electrification of the railway is outside the scope of the traffic managers. It is between CIE and the Department of Tourism and Transport. It should be very clear what CIE is about and yet it seems that a decision is not forthcoming. When does CIE expect a decision?
Dr. Devlin.—We have been waiting two years now. It is exactly two years now since it went to the Department. I may say that the Department are committed to electrification.
53. Deputy L. Lawlor.—So CIE and the Department of Tourism and Transport are committed and yet nothing is happening?
Dr. Devlin.—Well the Department officials are committed and it took a long time to convince them because they practically did all our work again.
54. Deputy L. Lawlor.—It is back to the toughness of the approach. For the satellite towns on the western side of Dublin CIE is providing an inadequate service. There are now towns, more houses and more people out there and every morning there are complaints. I have been in contact with officials in CIE and they have been as helpful as possible but we are getting nowhere fast and it is not going to get any easier. Can CIE say when a decision will be forthcoming?
Dr. Devlin.—The indications are that the decision will come down in favour of roads. One proposal that was made to us was that the line be taken up and a bus way built on it. In Tuam we did not withdraw a service but delivered goods from Claremorris. We said we would deliver from Claremorris instead of from Galway and three fellows went on hunger strike so one can imagine what would happen if we took up the line for a bus.
55. Deputy B. Desmond.—Suppose there was a phased injection of funds by the Department on the public capital side and they gave you £10 million in 1979-1980, and another £10 million later how long would it take to complete the electrification?
Dr. Devlin.—We are ready to go. Perhaps Mr. Higgins would like to talk about the phasing of it but before he does, let me say this. I do not think it is actually cash that is the problem because there are various ways in which we could finance the electrification. We could finance by leasing; there are several ways in which we could do it without looking for hard cash.
56. Deputy B. Desmond.—Has not the argument tended to centre around the public capital programme?
Dr. Devlin.—I am arguing all the time that it is not a cash situation. It is a public capital programme but not a cash situation. We have to start renewing the signalling because we have responsibility in regard to safety. We have all the plans drawn up; the detailed plans are done. Within three years we could have it completed.
Mr. Higgins.—We could have the project completed by the end of 1982—three-and-a-half years from now—if we got the green light, say, next week.
57. Chairman.—You are talking about the electrification of the Howth/Bray line?
Mr. Higgins.—Yes. We would certainly be finished within three-and-a-half years.
58. Deputy B. Desmond.—Is it possible to go as far as Greystones?
Dr. Devlin.—That and Skerries is an option that can be taken up at any time.
Mr. Higgins.—Deputy Lawlor will be interested in the western developments. We have indicated that we could give a rail connection to Tallaght and a further connection to Ronanstown within five years. If we got the go-ahead now we could have that finished, including the tunnel between Heuston and Tara Street by 1985.
59. Chairman.—Would that be an entirely new line?
Mr. Higgins.—It would except that we would use the existing right of way from Heuston Station up to the Semperit factory close to Clondalkin and then the line would turn south there and straight along a new right of way to the centre of Tallaght. We would also improve the existing line all the way to Clondalkin station, and we would give a spur connection there to the new town of Clondalkin. That would make a great difference to the western side of the city. As we see it, there are really no realistic plans for roads to serve the western towns. Even with the best will in the world, and even with all the necessary money, it just cannot be done because it is not physically possible.
60. Deputy B. Desmond.—As a member of Dublin County Council, I confirm that in the context of a western road development programme. We have at the moment 180,000 private cars in the Dublin area and by 1985 we will have 360,000. Bus speeds have dropped from about 14 miles per hour down to 7 miles per hour. Can they drop to about five?
Dr. Devlin.—From D’Olier Street to Dawson Street it has been below three miles per hour, at certain times of the day.
61. Deputy B. Desmond.—Is it true that in the last year it has got markedly worse? Is that a fair comment?
Mr. Higgins.—Yes. It has become very bad over the last 12 months and is worsening all the time. The traffic problem improved a little over the last month due to the petrol problem. Certainly the bus speeds improved—but the problem has been worsening markedly since last autumn.
62. Deputy B. Desmond.—Has this been largely because of the rise in the numbers of private cars?
Dr. Devlin.—And the lack of any enforcement of the bye-laws. We are now getting traffic congestion in the off-peak times.
Mr. Higgins.—There is traffic right through the day. Before, the heavy traffic was confined to three or four hours, but now it is there right through the day.
63. Deputy B. Desmond.—Additional gardaf are being put on the main city centre routes now. About 100 gardai were deployed in recent weeks. Has that had a marked effect?
Mr. Higgins.—It is difficult for us to judge at the moment because we do not have that many buses out. Obviously, if the parking laws are enforced, it will help a lot. However, there is too much parking availability in the city. The parking availability at the moment is higher than recommended even for 1990. There are too many long-term, car parking spaces. We need fewer spaces so as to encourage the people with short-term business only to drive into town, rather than the people bringing in cars on a commuter basis and parking them for the day. Parking needs to be regulated on the basis of using it for short-term parking. It is essential to cater for short-term parking but the commuter should be encouraged to use public transport.
64. Deputy B. Desmond.—Would the building of additional bridges across the Liffey for example, in the context of toll bridges, have a marked effect on traffic flow?
Mr. Higgins.—No. All junctions on the approach roads to the city are overloaded. The application of a parking squeeze is the only way to tackle it. All the junctions along the canals and on the western side of the city are overloaded.
65. Chairman.—Fly-overs would be a big help, would they not?
Mr. Higgins.—They would, but we would still have to deal with the smaller junctions in the inner city area which are also overloaded. By improving the approaches to the city, all that is being done, in effect, is to build up congestion in the inner city. We need to regulate the volume of traffic coming into the inner city.
66. Deputy L. Lawlor.—I am convinced that the rail policy is necessary but that relates to the mid-1980s and to the western side of the city. In relation to the techniques available which are not being used because of the lack of expertise of other authorities, is there any hope of anything being done? Is there a request that something be done?
Dr. Devlin.—We are talking to the local authorities and to the Garda, but we just meet and express our views, and when we have gone they get on with their own planning. There is no desire to provide any facilities for public transport, and there is a hunger to build more roads. At one stage I tried to establish a committee with a representative from the Department of Local Government, as it was then; I had an assistant secretary lined up, and then there was a decision that he should not go, and that was it.
67. Deputy B. Desmond.—If we had a simplified fare system in Dublin with a one-man operated bus system such as that in operation in continental cities, how big a change would that make in the Dublin area?
Dr. Devlin.—It is our aim to have three fares in Dublin city, but one of the problems when we reduce the number of fares is that the lower fare has to be increased substantially. There may only be an increase of 5 per cent or a standstill in the maximum fare but a 50 per cent increase in the lower fare. For example, one may go from 10p to 15p on the minimum fare and have a fare of 25p and 30p. That was one proposal, but the Department have never agreed to it because they say it is unfair to load the increase onto the smaller fare. In our last proposal we wanted to keep the highest fare steady and increase the lower fare and then provide special concessions for regular users. This would not be accepted by the Department. Apparently, this is not on politically. Time and again the National Prices Commission say we should have flat fares, less fares and so on, and we just grin and bear it because we cannot do anything about it.
68. Deputy B. Desmond.—CIE would just have three stage fares then?
Dr. Devlin.—In Dublin three stage fares would be enough.
Mr. Higgins.—It is what we would like to have, given the opportunity to implement it. As our Chairman said, we have problems with the Department in changing the fares structure; and of course we have problems with the men in persuading them to get into one-man buses. It would certainly be a much better situation for them, for the public and for all of us. Experience everywhere has proved that the drivers of one-man operated buses are much happier men and are better paid than those on two-man operated buses. Certainly, the simpler the fares structure, the simpler it is for them and the public to understand it. We have been advocating that system for many years now, and if we could we would introduce it very quickly.
69. Chairman.—Are the board saying that without reservation? Views were expressed that some cities were having second thoughts about one-man buses.
Mr. Higgins.—The only place that I know of where they are still very lukewarm about applying this system is London. There have been one-man buses in the larger continental cities since the 1930s. There are one-man operated, double decker buses in Berlin, since before the War which operate very well. One-man buses were introduced in practically all the British cities and in Belfast over the last ten years and the men would not now revert to two-man operated buses because a man prefers to operate a bus on a one-man basis; he does not want to have to depend on his conductor; he is captain of his own ship and that is the way he likes it. The crews like it and the public find it more satisfactory because they get to know the driver and establish a relationship with him. We have had that experience with the large number of one-man operated single decker buses we operate. The public like it because they can get to know the driver and the drivers like it because they are so much better paid. It also means we get less problems with disruption due to absenteeism. People are less inclined to stay away from work because they have more job interest and better pay. All the experience is that it is a better situation but it is not easy to persuade everybody that that is so.
Dr. Devlin.—The key to one-man operation is that you should pre-sell about 80 per cent to 85 per cent of tickets. That can be done because you can offer a special rate to regular users.
70. Deputy Kenneally.—The one you have is working satisfactorily?
Dr. Devlin.—Yes. We would make a big drive for pre-sale of tickets.
71. Deputy Kenneally.—On the Continent they have vehicles that cater mainly for standing passengers. Did CIE ever contemplate such vehicles?
Dr. Devlin.—We are planning standee single deckers for Cork. The law will have to be changed but we think that is the way we have to go. One of the arguments against such buses in Dublin is that the distances are longer and people expect to have a seat. Obviously if we could introduce such buses in Dublin we would run single deckers. The standee bus we have designed caters for 40 standing passengers and 35 sitting passengers.
72. Deputy L. Lawlor.—Dublin County Council are calling for a transport advisory committee for the greater Dublin area.* Is that a good or bad idea?
Dr. Devlin.—I think it is a good idea. More people get involved. Ideally, we like to provide the services on a contract basis to the local authorities. It is significant that the last elected local authorities have shown a greater interest in public transport than any of the previous local authorities. It is good from our point of view that there is an awareness that something must be done about transport at the public representative level.
73. Deputy B. Desmond.—The CII have come out on occasions with the comment that there is a need for purely private bus services in the Dublin area. What is your view on that?
Dr. Devlin.—The question is how is the cake to be divided. We have profitable routes and unprofitable routes. Will a subsidy be given to the private companies? The first thing they would have to do would be to establish garages in Dublin because they would have to service the buses.
Deputy B. Desmond.—I share your view in that regard.
Dr. Devlin.—I should like to clarify a point on which there may be some misunderstanding. If the Government said we could have electrification of the suburban line, contingent on that is the project for the building of rail coaches. If we establish that industry we would have coaches within one year or 18 months; in the interim we would transfer some of our mainline coaches to the suburban line and would put the new coaches onto the mainline. In this way we would bridge the gap between the present situation and full electrification. The go-ahead for electrification does not mean that there would not be an improvement for three and a half years.
74. Deputy Kenneally.—Could the capital requirement be spread over a number of years?
Dr. Devlin.—I think there is some confusion about giving us £40 million. Undoubtedly it means that £40 million is put into the public capital budget. This year the Government have approved £15 million for our capital expenditure but we will produce most of that ourselves.
Mr. Grace.—Over 60 per cent.
75. Chairman.—How do you mean you produce it yourself?
Dr. Devlin.—It comes from our own depreciation cash flows.
76. Chairman.—Could you elaborate on that?
Dr. Devlin.—We depreciate on a replacement basis. That is part of our total expenditure in any one year. The funds come from within and about 60 per cent of our capital expenditure comes from these funds. The whole coaching stock can be leased. In Europe the financing companies own most of the railway coaching stock. We have agreed with the Northern Ireland railways that ultimately the coaching stock used by both railways will be common stock and will be financed in one way or another. In the same way we hope to come to an agreement with the Northern railways that ultimately we will supply them with locomotives because their’s is a small railway. We think in terms of the total national railway system.
77. Deputy Kenneally.—Over how many years are you contemplating spreading the £40 million?
Dr. Devlin.—I think it is £16 million on coaches and that could be spread over ten years. One of the major banks could be involved in the financing of rolling stock and there would be an annual payment. Some of the other equipment could also be financed on a leasing basis. The four electrical sub-stations could be leased and the amount that would have to be paid out would not be very large and could be phased over the years of construction.
78. Deputy B. Desmond.—Would you have access to European Investment Bank money?
Dr. Devlin.—The Coal and Steel Community are very anxious to loan us money but the rate is too high at the moment. They are very interested in our project, particularly the coach building project. I do not think that cash is a problem. I can understand the Government saying that what is involved is only £40 million but wondering whether they are committing themselves ultimately to £200 million. That is a legitimate concern of the Government.
79. Deputy L. Lawlor.—In addition to Howth-Bray, you have got to go to the western side?
Dr. Devlin.—I think if the public once saw the rapid transit system in operation and got the benefit of it we could build up traffic very easily and an extension would be feasible on a commercial basis.
Deputy B. Desmond.—I am a member of Dublin County Council and we have poured £7 million or £8 million into the Bray road in a two mile stretch.
80. Chairman.—According to the study made in 1975 by Voorhees it was estimated that the rapid rail system would only divert 9 per cent to 14 per cent at the outside. That sounds very small—firstly in that it would only divert that amount and secondly in regard to the viability of the scheme.
Mr. Higgins.—I think it must be looked at in the way it was planned. The Voorhees study was done in the context of the Dublin Transportation Study. This study envisaged that all the motorways and roads would be built in Dublin and that everything would run as planned. Then they said assuming that all these motorways are built and that the estimated number of cars— about 600,000—are bought, that the number of people who would use the rapid transit system would be 86 million per annum, a very substantial number. This is 33 per cent approx. of all passengers, i.e., 250 million, whom it is estimated will use public transport a year or 10 per cent of total. Assuming that the planned roads are built, we will be carrying a minimum of 86 million people a year in the rapid transport system. If you look at the situation in which the roads are not built—there is every reason why the roads cannot be built—then take into account the increasing price of petrol and the picture changes. It was assumed by Voorhees that the price of petrol or diesel fuel obtaining in 1973 would continue up to the end of 1991. Since 1973 the price of diesel oil has been increased 6½ fold. If you take these factors into account we will get a large addition to the 86 million passengers, representing quite a substantial percentage of all journeys in the Dublin area. Another aspect is that the Dublin Transportation Study recommended that 80 per cent of all people coming into the city centre area should use public transport. Of that 80 per cent, a very substantial number would travel by rapid transit, certainly a minimum of 60 per cent.
81. Chairman.—That would be far more than the figure we have before us?
Mr. Higgins—I do not know where that came from. The figures I am quoting are from the report.
82. Chairman.—Is it not an estimate given to you by Voorhees?
Mr. Higgins.—I still do not know where the figures came from. I have taken my figures from the report and they differ from those. If we consider the entire city area, and if we take it that the road system will be developed, the percentage carried on the rapid transit would be 10.5 per cent of the total numbers moving in Dublin. I regard that as a conservative estimate. On the one hand I cannot see how the roads can be built, on the other, fuel is getting scarce and expensive. It is estimated that 60 per cent of the people coming to the city centre will be using public transport.
83. Chairman.—Are you taking into consideration the recent Dublin Corporation proposals for improved roads and so on?
Mr. Higgins.—Taking those into account— and I cannot see them materialising before 1990—the rapid transit system will still make a big contribution. If you take it that the roads will not be built, the situation becomes much stronger in favour of rapid transit. Take also the price of petrol.
Mr. Grace.—There is also the point that public transport is geared to peak periods.
Dr. Devlin.—If we had electrification we would run the whole day at 15-minute intervals in the off-peak and 5-minute intervals at peak periods. We would be in the special position that we could trim down the size of our trains in the off-peak to two carriages.
84. Deputy L. Lawlor.—One of the comments one gets in regard to the Dublin bus services is of absenteeism on key mornings, such as Mondays and Fridays. In the eyes of politicians and the public, though the Dublin services are relatively small in the national transport picture, this absenteeism is doing untold harm to the national image of CIE. What is happening on the one-man bus proposal?
Dr. Devlin.—We have recruited drivers and conductors but we are still short. However, the situation now is infinitely better than 12 months ago. Obviously we will not have one-man buses immediately. There are certain things on which we cannot save money. For instance we have increased the number of inspectors in the field, not alone for revenue protection—to check the money —but also to ensure there is a better image of our people in the public eye—the wearing of uniforms and so on. We have intensified that inspection. There is a phenomenon that affects not alone CIE but all industry. It is that from about December until March there is very high absenteeism because people benefit from income tax rebates, and social welfare benefits are very generous. Indeed we have people in CIE who get more money by being out than in. This corrects itself from the beginning of the tax year in April. The answer to all of that is the one man operation of double deck buses. That brings a different dimension to the job. In the recent Labour Court award it was stated that the court had learned from some of those to whom they had spoken to that there was a number of bus drivers who wanted the one man operation—that was an independent examination. The Labour Court suggested that the trade unions should have another vote on whether they wanted it or not.
85. Deputy L. Lawlor.—Is it that one union group will not talk at this stage and that the other group will?
Dr. Devlin.—There are two groups. The congress unions have not got a mandate to negotiate. The non-congress union has, or had, a mandate, and they are prepared to talk. We have made various offers to both groups. It is a difficult one: the multi-union situation has its own problems.
86. Deputy Fitzsimons.—I will go back to a point made earlier by Deputy Lawlor in relation to his area. He referred to the numbers commuting from County Meath to the city in their cars, contributing to the traffic congestion. Could you consider opening up again the Navan-Drogheda link? Many people have told me they would love to travel by rail to work in Dublin because they would then be enabled to get there on time. That line is being used by Gypsum, Tara Mines and so on. The road from Clonee to the city is very bad and until something is done with it a passenger rail service would be a winner.
Dr. Devlin.—We call that “outer suburban”. The options will be many when we have a rapid transit system. We could extend it to Drogheda. I do know that we have commenced early morning buses from those outlying regions.
Mr. Higgins.—Yes, from Birr, from Carlow and from Kilkenny.
Dr. Devlin.—We have weekend 5.30 morning trains to Dublin from outlying centres. We adjusted the fares by 10 per cent last year but worked another journey from some of our trains, giving an extra afternoon and night at home to many people, at weekends.
87. Deputy Fitzsimons.—There is a private bus service from Carrickmacross. The first bus leaves early in the morning, goes through Navan, and gets people in here at 8 o’clock. The first CIE bus coming through Navan at 7.30 is not in Dublin till nearly nine o’clock depending on the traffic and it is too late; but if we had a rail operation they would be sure to be in town at the time they anticipated. Could the Navan Drogheda link be looked at in view of the developments that have taken place since it was closed down?
Mr. Higgins.—We could have a rapid transit connection of course to Finglas and one can drive quite readily from Navan into Finglas. It is only from there in that one gets traffic problems.
Dr. Devlin.—Blanchardstown is also part of the plan. If in reviewing the discussion we had today there are further questions they can be addressed to us next week.
Chairman.—That would have to be by special application. We hope to see everyone next week and we will deal with the matters we have not dealt with today.
The witnesses withdrew.