western rail corridor
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How they closed the Claremorris-Limerick railway

The Dáil Debate of March 3Oth 1976

Dáil Éireann - Volume 289 - 30 March, 1976

Private Members' Business. - Claremorris-Limerick Railway Passenger Service: Motion.

Mr. Barrett: I move:

That Dáil Éireann, believing that for social and economic reasons, the Claremorris/Limerick railway passenger service should not be discontinued, calls on the Government to ensure that the passenger and freight service on this line be improved immediately so as to attract more business.

This is the biggest railway closure in the history of CIE. The major argument against its closure is that it is by far the longest line ever proposed for withdrawal of a passenger train. Limerick to Athenry and to Claremorris is 93 miles. The previous longest passenger lines closed were Mallow to Waterford, which was 76 miles, in 1967, Limerick to Tralee, 70 miles, closed in 1963.

More serious still is the fact that whereas CIE gave 13 months' notice of closure in the case of the Mallow-Waterford line, six months' notice of closure for the Cork-Bantry line, which was 58 miles long, and four months' notice of closure in respect of the West Clare railway, they now give a bare two months' notice, the shortest ever, for the closure of the largest and most important line to date, namely, Limerick-Claremorris, which is all they are required to give.

This is a gross injustice and CIE should be required, as an absolute minimum concession, to postpone the closure for at least six months so that adequate time can be made available to work out a solution to the problem between the various interests involved and there are many interests. This six-month period would cover the summer months and the Easter holiday period. The extra loss incurred would be very small for such a postponement of the closure, since most of the £250,000 loss that CIE are talking about must surely take place during the winter and spring months when passenger travel on this line would be very light compared to the summer period.

This is the only line now connecting Munster directly with Connacht. It stretches from Limerick to Mayo and runs through four counties, namely, Limerick, Clare, Galway and Mayo. On the way it serves the very important towns of Ennis and Tuam and also the growing town of Gort and the rail junction town of Athenry. Main rail connections are also made at Limerick, Athenry and Claremorris, so this line is of strategic importance for all holiday travellers in the west. If this passenger service is withdrawn, the CIE rail network will cease in the area west of the Shannon, since the only lines remaining will be those radiating directly from Dublin to the west.

This closure, by the way, is not included in the CIE Rail Plan 80 of which we have all heard about. We wonder if CIE have defied their own five-year plan that they have published for some time. I will give three excerpts from this plan which was published in 1974 and which indicated that CIE had no intention of closing any long-distance passenger service. The first excerpt is:

Where passenger services are uneconomic they will continue to be provided so long as the Government considers they are socially justified.

Surely the Government cannot deny this service is socially justified. If it is not economically viable, it is socially justified. Here is another excerpt:

For passenger traffic route mileage will be virtually unaltered.

The third one is:

Any decision to withdraw a passenger service from a station or branch line will only be taken against the background of EEC policies. These policies dealing with public service obligations provide for the subvention of uneconomic but socially desirable passenger services.

All this makes one wonder if the CIE rail section have been forced by the more powerful bus section to sacrifice their service in order to make way for more expressway bus expansion in the west. I would also like to point out that the McKenzie Report suggested the closure of the Limerick-Ballina train service and also the abolition of duplicate rail routes. Yet CIE are only planning to close the Limerick-Claremorris line and have no intention or no declared intention of interfering with duplicate routes because these, as I have already said, radiate from Dublin to Athlone via Mullingar and via Tullamore. There is one to Limerick via Thurles, and one via Nenagh and another one to Waterford-Rosslare via Kilkenny, and a second one via Arklow to the same destination. There is no suitable alternative rail route in place of the Limerick-Claremorris line. The only other route within the two points mentioned, Limerick and Claremorris, is via Limerick Junction, Portarlington and Athlone, a total distance of 185 miles, which is twice the distance of the line from Limerick to Claremorris. It is not and should not be regarded as an alternative in this case.

In regard to the £250,000 loss on this line which has been mentioned by CIE, we consider this figure is suspect. An even figure of £250,000 will always look good in print. How do we know that is the correct figure? For instance, if they had mentioned £249,000 or £251,000, it would have sounded more convincing. We would like to know if this is the total loss on the line or on the passenger trains only. This question should be answered. What were the receipts and expenses? None of these questions has been answered by CIE or anybody else. Is the figure of £250,000 a gross exaggeration?

At a recent press conference on fare increases the chairman of CIE said that labour costs represent 63 per cent of the total costs in CIE. In the case of the Limerick-Claremorris line there are 30 men employed in the operation of the passenger service and 21 of these men will now become redundant. Their average wage is £2,000 per annum, which gives a total of £60,000 for labour costs. If the chairman's statement is correct, this would mean that the total cost of running the Limerick-Claremorris passenger train cannot exceed £100,000, a big drop from £250,000. How did they arrive at £250,000? I hope the Minister will be able to clear up that point.

In view of these facts we maintain that all the CIE figures in regard to this line should be independently audited before they can be accepted as accurate. This is not too much to expect. We also maintain that an investigation into how CIE apportion their losses on various lines should be carried out. It would be interesting to find out how costs are apportioned to this specific line because we are certain that if proper overheads were apportioned the costs could be further reduced.

In assessing the importance of this line the following facts should be taken into account. The present cost of maintaining a mile of national primary road is approximately £2,000, without surface dressing. The present cost of reconstructing one mile of national primary road is £70,000. CIE propose to provide alternative services by means of further road transport, expressway buses and so on. We also maintain that the bus substitute proposed would be totally inadequate, apart from the fact that the substitute buses are inferior to the trains in question in the required standard of comfort which passengers are entitled to expect. For instance, the buses do not serve Craughwell, Athenry or Ballyglunin. Instead, they continue on the main road into and out of Galway city. Travellers from Limerick to Tuam and Claremorris do not want to go via Galway; neither do they want to be held up in deep traffic jams, which usually occur in cities such as Galway. Similarly, travellers from Ennis and Gort for Dublin, who now travel by rail via Athenry, will have to go into Galway by bus to connect with the Dublin trains. CIE are using the rail closure as an excuse to augment the Limerick-Galway bus route and merely extend two of these services each way to Claremorris. During heavy summer holiday periods these buses will be crammed with passengers and Salthill and Mayo-bound passengers will have to stand all the way to Galway, or perhaps they will be left behind in Limerick or Ennis.

Under the 1958 Transport Act CIE have absolute power, without reference to any Government or person, to close any line or station provided it is not [536] paying and has no prospect of paying. We do not know which lines are paying and which are not. Under the existing law CIE could close the whole rail system by giving the minimum two months' notice if they so desired. We believe the company should not be permitted to do so, nor should they be permitted to close this line.

In Britain, for instance, no line can be closed without a public inquiry, which would be held by the Transport Users' Consultative Committee. This has always been the case in Britain. I am not saying we should do everything the British do, but there are certain instances when we could have a system similar to theirs. When a line is threatened British Rail and the objectors give evidence for and against and the committee then issue their findings. In may cases the closure is rejected and the line remains open. Even in cases where the committee allow a line to close the Minister for Transport has authority to veto such a decision or can order any threatened line to remain open.

He has done this on a number of occasions, notably in the case of the central Wales line, which is a cross-country route similar in length to the Limerick-Claremorris line. He stopped the closure of this line in 1964 when the line was losing £100,000 per annum. In 1969, when the loss had grown to £250,000 per annum, he again stopped the closure. The line is still open to passengers and is run very cheaply with small two-coach railcar trains. Maybe CIE should consider copying this system in an effort to run this line more cheaply and to maintain the service through the west. As both Britain and Ireland are now members of the EEC the same transport legislation should recommend itself to both countries, especially when the system is not dissimilar, particularly in places like Wales and Scotland.

CIE are trying to justify this closure by giving comparative costs for new trains and new buses. Nobody asks them to buy new trains because the trains already exist. Engines and carriages on this line are quite new and have a life expectancy of at least another ten years. The people of Ennis and Tuam and elsewhere in the west are not looking for super trains and they have never requested any improvement in the trains that are operating on this line.

CIE have confirmed that if they withdraw the train service they will need four new express buses in order to provide a service and that will cost a total of £100,000. CIE say that the buses will serve the town centres. Ennis is the only station where this line does not serve the town centre. Every other station on the Limerick line is adjacent to the town centre and in the town of Gort the railway line crosses over the main street, the only town in Ireland where this happens. The claim that the express buses would serve the town centres should not be taken seriously compared with the present rail route that they are proposing to discontinue.

The Limerick/Claremorris daily train has very comfortable seating. There is plenty of space to walk around and there are sanitary facilities. People can eat, drink, or read and write if they wish. They can also admire the scenery and hold a conversation with fellow passengers. CIE's regulations compel them to provide sanitary arrangements on all train journeys exceeding one-and-a-half hours. Children and old people would necessarily avail of these facilities frequently.

By comparison, if travelling in buses, even on an expressway, they have to do the journey in cramped conditions with no walk-around space. Reading is virtually impossible. Conversation is rarely possible because of the noise and vibrations. There are no sanitary or washing facilities, although many journeys on these buses exceed the one-and-a-half hours prescribed by CIE's health regulations. Buses have limited luggage space, whereas trains can accommodate all sorts of baggage which travellers and holidaymakers require.

Limerick has no rail outlet to the sea except to Galway. GAA specials operate from Ennis to Tuam during the summer months and there are very few Sundays when we would not have a special from either Ennis or Tuam for GAA matches. Of great importance is the pilgrimages to Knock from Limerick, Ennis and so on. These specials operate through Munster from May to October. These specials from the south of Ireland carry between 300 and 500 passengers each and it is only right to expect a big increase in that traffic in 1979, the Knock Centenary Year. Buses could not be expected to cope with such big numbers. Great hardship would be inflicted on people travelling even in express buses because of the long travelling hours through the centre of Ireland.

There is nothing to stop CIE doing what happened in Wales in the instance I have given. They could use a small rail car train with a conductor-guard to issue tickets. Since most of the losses mentioned have been incurred during winter months, a compromise solution may be the retention of the full summer service and a reduced winter one, say on Saturdays only.

If CIE persist in refusing a subsidy -we have subsidies for them every year and we never opposed them since we came into Opposition- some system of grants or aids should be considered. For instance, have the Government made any recommendation to the EEC with regard to getting grant aid to keep this line open? We appreciate that it is not possible to get a grant under the heading of transport but we believe an application should be made to the social fund because of the great social function this line serves, linking the south of Ireland with Connacht through the west. On a recent visit to Brussels I made an inquiry about this matter and was told there was a distinct possibility of aid being granted.

I have no doubt that if application were made for such aid it would be considered seriously if it were properly documented and put before the Social Commissioner who, we should not forget, comes from west of the Shannon. The postponing of the closure of this line for six months could be considered and teased out properly. This could lead to a compromise decision which would satisfy the people who are so worried about the closure of the line. There are options open to CIE, the Government and the Minister before closing the line in April.

We believe all these options should be tried properly and the only way that can be done is by giving the line a reprieve for a further six months. CIE cannot lose in the next six months because that is the period during which the line pays its way. According to the CIE chairman, losses on the line are accounted for by labour costs which amount to 63 per cent of the total cost of running the line. The winter months must be the valley period for this line. Faced with holidaymakers and Knock pilgrims during the summer and with GAA specials, surely the line would pay its way in the next six months.

We should like a breakdown of the losses in winter and the profits during the summer. There is definitely a case for extending the life of this line for another six months with a view to looking at every possible means of keeping it open. This line would have many other functions in the future development of the economy, apart from the social functions which it has at present in the west, and it is included in all planning for the west. Indeed, we have all done enough talking about saving the west and setting up all sorts of bodies to save it. Surely it would be to the detriment of the west to take away this passenger line, the only line which is serving the west, apart from the ones directly radiating from Dublin. The Minister should look into reprieving this line for six months with a view to keeping it open.

Bord Fáilte and the IDA include this line in all their plans. In the event of an oil find off the west coast this line would have an important function in servicing the industries which must surely follow such a find. There are many aspects of our future economic development in which this line would be directly concerned. There have been many meetings west of the Shannon in connection with its closure. I have no doubt that people of all shades of political opinion have been as one in their determination to prevent the closure [540] of this line. Quite recently the Minister saw an instance of this when one of the biggest deputations ever to come to this House came to meet him. This deputation included all political shades of opinion. This is one issue on which people are completely united. Despite the 1958 Act which, as we have been told, makes it the sole prerogative of CIE to close the line, we believe that the Minister should intervene in order to prevent this. The Minister has a duty to intervene in order to do so. This is the time to do it. The date set for the closure is 5th April. We put down this motion in an effort to highlight the concern and worry which this proposed closure has caused. We hope the Minister and his colleagues will take note of this and that some action, belated as it is now, will be taken to prevent CIE from discontinuing this line which is of such great importance to the west.


Minister for Transport and Power (Mr. P. Barry): I move the following amendment:

To delete all words after "Dáil Éireann" and to substitute the following:

"recognises that under Section 19 of the Transport Act, 1958 the Board of CIE is empowered to terminate any train service provided the Board is satisfied that the service is uneconomic and that there is no prospect of its continued operation being economic within a reasonable period; and takes note that the Board propose to provide alternative road passenger services in lieu of the rail passengers services on the Limerick/Claremorris railway line."

In moving his motion Deputy Barrett recognised the validity of section 19 of the 1958 Transport Act. It is the major Act dealing with CIE and the contraction of CIE to a viable position as a railway undertaking. We must look at this motion of the Opposition's and my amendment to it in the light of what is happening to railways all over the world. Deputy Barrett quoted British Rail's position and what they had done. What he did not say was that, per head of the population, the subsidy being provided by the [541] taxpayer in England for British Rail is greater than the subsidy being provided by the Irish taxpayer for CIE. Nor did he say that since 1st January last year there have been five fare increases on British Rail. During that time there has only been one increase in CIE fares, and we have managed to keep the subsidy at a lower level per head of the population than have British Rail.

Railway travel for certain commodities and for large groups of people is a legitimate form of passenger transport. It is also legitimate for the transfer of large quantities of heavy goods. I do not think that railways, per se, should be preserved. They were laid down in different times for a different economy. They were there long before the road system was as extensive or as good as it is now. They were put there at a time when there were no private cars on the road and they are exceedingly expensive to maintain.

Mr. Barrett: So are cars.

Mr. P. Barry: I did not interrupt Deputy Barrett and I should like to make my contribution without interruption. When the 1958 Act was being debated the then Minister for Industry and Commerce, Mr. Lemass, said:

We cannot afford to be pouring into an unnessary, inefficient and unduly wasteful transport system money that could be devoted to far more useful purposes.

This was the thinking that prompted that Act and the closures which have taken place under that Act since then. It is wrong to oppose the closing of the Claremorris/Limerick line when there is a long history of other closures completely cutting off from rail transport other parts of the country, and I speak of west Cork, Kerry, Donegal, Monaghan, Cavan, Dundalk and Greenore. All these lines have been closed since that Act was brought in. The difference, however, is that the tracks of the lines which have been closed in the last three years have not been taken up. The tracks will remain; and if there is a change in the economic circumstances surrounding any particular closure the bed of the track is still [542] there. Another one-and it would be a relief to the transport system in the city of Dublin if it was possible to run it again-is the Harcourt Street line. When the Harcourt Street-Bray line was closed the line was taken up and the land sold, so there is no possibility of connecting the southern suburbs of Dublin to the centre of Dublin by rail. Where other lines have been closed in the last three years, it was deliberately as a result of the Government giving instructions to CIE that, if they saw no future in a line becoming economic, while it was within their competence to close that line, they should not take up the tracks in case there was a change in the economic circumstances in the future and it was necessary to reopen that line. Portion of the Mallow/Waterford line had to be reopened to carry goods for a new industry in Dungarvan.

Some other speakers referred to the large deputation which I received early this month. That deputation-and this morning I read over the notes taken at that meeting-was largely concerned about freight, about the fear that the cessation of the passenger service was a prelude to the cessation of the freight service. That might well be, because the reason for stopping the passenger service was lack of support for it. If it had been supported it would have stayed. Less than the equivalent of one busload of people travelled every day on that train. For 70 per cent of the time one bus would have done, and yet for that a permanent way, engines, staff and very expensive rolling stock had to be provided. You could not justify that. The same would happen in freight.

There were people picketing outside Dáil Éireann today. These people would be better occupied organising sufficient freight traffic for that line than in picketing Dáil Éireann. Unless there is, the freight would have to go also because the freight carriage on that line is of benefit to the people living in the towns along it, the traders and the commercial people living in the towns from Limerick to Claremorris. It is of benefit to them, not to the taxpayers of Donegal, Wicklow, Wexford or Tipperary. It is unreasonable, if the losses are too heavy, to ask other taxpayers to keep that line open. I give fair warning to the House that if, instead of organising meetings, parades and pickets for the last month or two since notice of the closure was given, they had been organising trade for CIE and behaving in a positive way to help maintain that line for freight they would have been far better occupied than in the negative way of opposing something which I know a lot of them in their own hearts know is inevitable. You cannot justify asking the taxpayers to maintain a line that is carrying for 70 per cent of its time less than one busload of people. It is not reasonable, and I suspect that the Deputies who will speak here, even though they speak in favour of the line because they think it is politically wise to do so, know themselves it is unreasonable. Even amongst themselves I suspect, in the privacy of the third floor they will admit that is so. This line is losing a quarter of a million pounds on the passenger service alone.

I want to correct two points Deputy Barrett made. The special trains to Knock are being maintained. He said the GAA special trains from Ennis to Tuam--

Mr. Barrett: And Tuam.

Mr. P. Barry: Well, I presume they are going to Dublin. I do not know when Clare play Galway or in what competition. Clare play in the Munster championships and Galway play in the Connaught championships. There are occasional Oireachtas games or grounds tournaments. Maybe they play in the league, but I do not think so.

Mr. Barrett: Hurling.

Mr. P. Barry: I do not remember Galway and Clare meeting in the GAA.

Mr. Barrett: They do not play in Tuam.

Mr. P. Barry: Anyway, I suppose Deputy Barrett is entitled to say anything he thinks might fit the bill, but I imagine that the Clare people would be going to Thurles, to Cork and to Dublin from Ennis.

Mr. Barrett: They go everywhere.

Mr. P. Barry: They do when they have the chance. They will have the chance of going everywhere with the express bus service, because what they could not do on the train was to get off in Galway city and go to Salthill. The train did not go through Galway city. The express bus will, and will give them that chance.

When I became Minister for Transport and Power in 1973 I found that my predecessors in this office had this problem and, prior to them, the Minister for Industry and Commerce. One of the perennial headaches for the Minister for Transport and Power is Córas Iompair Éireann in all its manifestations and ramifications, its huge losses, its enormous staff. It is a constant presence in the office of the Minister for Transport and Power.

Deputy Barrett says people got only two-months' notice of the closure of this line, but he says at another point that the closure was foreshadowed by the McKinsey Report, and that is true. It was obvious that something would have to be done with CIE, because if it was allowed to continue amassing huge losses without any effort to make it a more efficient organisation, to curtail it and make it an efficient, modern transport system, the whole railway side of CIE would close down. It was the only possible end to the way in which it was going. I accepted at that stage the McKinsey Report recommendation that CIE should be cut back, that under the 1958 Act the board should be allowed continue with their freedom to shut down uneconomic lines, to close stations which were under-utilised, and that they should get capital investment of a kind that would allow them compete for the freight traffic which they were losing very heavily to the private sector.

Members listening to me have come to me on occasions, and two members of that deputation who are not Deputies have been with me on another deputation, saying that it is unfair to the private sector that CIE should have an apparent monopoly in freight transport, and that it was my duty as Minister for Transport and Power to introduce legislation to liberalise road freight and allow more people from the private sector in on top of the goods being carried by CIE.

I circulated that Bill last week at the behest of some Deputies and two people, not Deputies, who were on that deputation to me in Room 114. These are the people who want to be allowed to take the trade from CIE but still want the general body of taxpayers to support CIE and keep CIE running to all sorts of places at all sorts of times in case they might ever need them. They cannot have it both ways. If people want CIE they must accept the curtailment of their freedom if they are in the private sector, and they must accept the taxes that are going to be imposed to support CIE. They must not shout for unlimited money for CIE to operate uneconomic services at uneconomic times for people who are unwilling to support the services. That is the surest possible way to stick a knife in the heart of CIE and kill it for ever, to take railways out of this country.

I do not believe that railways are necessarily obsolete, that their day is ended, that it ended with the growth of the internal combustion engine. They still have a function to play in carrying large bodies of people and certain goods. However, it must be recognised that if they are to do this they must be supported. In Volume 186 of the Official Report, columns 605 and 606, the then Taoiseach, Deputy Seán Lemass, said:

We have closed many a railway and branch line since this State was established. We closed the line from Galway to Clifden; we eliminated railways in Donegal altogether; and we closed the line from Dundalk to Greenore and numerous other ones. There never was a line closed without public agitation of this sort about it...

He was speaking about the same sort of agitation as was outside the Dáil today.

As a matter of interest for the House, at the time one line was closed one Deputy made a point of getting himself ejected from this House in defence of the line which was being closed. He lost his seat in the next election.

Mr. Lemass went on to say: ... but there never was a serious complaint about the inadequacy of the substitute services once the line was closed.

I met many deputations, whatever CIE may do.

There was a controversy at the time that CIE were refusing to meet deputations of people who came to them. The then chairman of CIE refused to meet any deputation protesting about the closing of the lines. He said he would meet them on the inadequacy of the alternative service being supplied. It might be interesting to inquire as to who the chairman of CIE was at that time. He then went on: with regard to the closing of a railway line which required the positive consent of the Government and in no single case, going around the traders and councillors who made up the deputations, could I get an affirmative answer to the only question that mattered: "If the line is kept open, can you get more traffic for it?" I never got an affirmative answer to that question and it is the only one that counted.

In the final analysis Deputy Lemass was correct in that. CIE, like any trader, the smallest shopkeeper or the biggest firm, if they have not support the inevitable will happen; they must close. That is why CIE have adopted a new attitude in the past few years- they know that their handling of the sundries traffic in particular had been inefficient and was losing them trade very quickly.

Much of the money used by CIE in a capital sense in the last 12 months has been spent in the west. The policy about the west is not as has been alleged here and by the deputation I met and many other deputations, that CIE were going to abandon the railways in the west. That is not so but they are going to make sure that fast, efficient transport will operate in the west for both freight and passengers. Freight is an important to CIE as passengers. They have spent over £600,000 in the last two years on stations in the west of Ireland. If they can get their freight handling system into a modern context so as to handle it in a modern way and in palletised cages rather than in single boxes, on and off lorries, on and off carriages, off carriages again and onto lorries, so much the better. The amount of handling is enormous and represents an old-fashioned way of handling goods which is no longer acceptable to those traders who are now shouting to keep the line open. They will not support CIE themselves because the CIE method of handling sundries was too inefficient and old fashioned. CIE are making a capital investment to ensure that they do win back some of the trade they were losing to the private sector. I do not intend that on the road freight side CIE should be subsidised. I agree with those on the deputation that came to me saying that they were, perhaps, over-protected in the amount of trade they were taking. I do not intend that they be subsidised on road freight; they must compete with the ordinary hauliers who put their money into lorries, and employ men. They must compete on an equal basis and must have no advantage from the Government in this regard.

On the railways, however, they must be subsidised and the subsidy for 1976 will be over £20 million. Much could be done for the private motorist with that money; relief could be given in income tax and many other things could be done with that kind of money but it is being given to CIE because the Government recognise that the future of CIE is essential to the future of the west and the south because it is the main artery, the main connecting link between the capital and the east coast and the south. CIE's policy, taking a complete sweep of the country from Wicklow through Waterford, Cork, Kerry, up around to Sligo and Donegal, is to have a radial system from Dublin so that the time it will [548] take a person to travel from, say, Galway or Tuam to Dublin will be shorter and the journey safer and more efficient and more acceptable to the passengers than their own cars or the roadway.

How real is the tourist value of the Limerick/Claremorris line? We are now told that Cork city will be cut off from the west and that this was a natural method of travelling from Claremorris to Cork and that if people wanted to get on the Innisfallen to go to London from Claremorris they would get on this train which would take them to Limerick; they would change trains and go to Limerick Junction where they would again change trains and go to Cork city; then they would get on a bus in Cork which would take them to the ferry port. Every single day there is an expressway bus put on from Claremorris by CIE and you can get on that bus and you need not get off until you land on the Innis-fallen. You can go right through to the car ferry from Cork to Swansea without getting off that bus.

Mr. Molloy: Is there a toilet on the bus?

Mr. P. Barry: No, but the bus stops regularly and the times between stops are much less than those given by Deputy Barrett. That is a far more efficient service with one handling of luggage between Claremorris and the Cork ferry port as opposed to Claremorris/Limerick/Limerick Junction/ Cork. That is what old people particularly want. They do not wish to cross town with bags under their arms, carrying parcels and so on. They want to use one mode of transport from one point to their destination. That is the service that the new expressway bus service provides from Claremorris to Cork.

I suppose there is a certain pride in having a railway in one's own town -it was always there and you do not like to see it go. But is it the most efficient way of handling goods and people in this age? You must go to a railway station while a bus generally stops in the main street or other centre with the exception of Galway station, which I suppose, of all the cities in Europe, is the best situated, right in the heart of the city.

I do not see any great benefit in a a railway per se except for handling certain types and quantities of goods. By and large, road transport is more efficient and cheaper. The permanent way for road transport is used by a whole series of people who share the cost of its upkeep but the permanent way for rail traffic, either goods or passengers, is used by one set of people who are charged with its upkeep. The upkeep of a permanent way now is enormous and the cost of supplying engines and rolling stock for railways is enormous. If the passengers who use it are not willing to pay the price-and they are not and the Government recognise they would be unable to do so-then the Government must provide a subvention to help in the maintenance of these railways. I do not know how many members of the public - outside groups of traders or commercial groups or action groups or development groups, where the action began and the flame was lit which led to the sending of a deputation to the Minister to protest about the closing of the Claremorris-Limerick line - in any one of the towns or cities from Galway to Limerick stopped any Deputy and said: "This line should not be closed." Can any Deputy say that he was stopped by some individual in the street who said: "I always use the Limerick-Claremorris line; it should not be closed"?

Debate adjourned.

The Dáil adjourned at 8.30 p.m. to 10.30 a.m. on Wednesday, 31st March, 1976.