The Bill will provide an increase in the overdraft facility of a company of up to €300 million for its day-to-day running. If a private company went to a bank and sought to increase its overdraft from €107 million to €300 million, the door would not even be opened. One must analyse it from the perspective that it would not be tolerated for a private company without a proper business plan or strategy. Therefore, CIE should come here on its hands and knees and be extremely grateful for what we are doing in this legislation.
I have several questions with regard to the overall management of CIE and that of Iarnród Éireann, Bus Éireann and Dublin Bus. In the past ten years CIE has received €3.25 billion and one must ask on what has it been spent and question the management and workers. Over the years the management of CIE has failed to deliver the value required by the customer. The customer should ask these questions because it is the customer who pays increased fares and subsidises many of the work practices and the poor and bad management which exists in CIE. Would it be worthwhile to bring its board and management before an Oireachtas committee? The management makes decisions which cost the State, taxpayers and users of the company the money to be paid.
Is CIE fit for purpose? In answering this we must examine what is happening in CIE. Fare increases were recently introduced across the board. If one removes the public service obligation and examines the routes on which the companies actively compete with private companies, one sees a significant difference in the fares charged. I will be a little parochial with my example. One can travel from Naas to Newbridge at a cost of slightly more than €5 with CIE. One can make the same journey with a private bus company for €2. This private company does not receive any subsidy or subvention from the State, but CIE cannot compete on an equal footing and one must ask why. This brings one back to the management and workers.
I always welcome capital spend by CIE on improving the quality of the facilities used, including the rail tracks and carriages and buses. However, private companies do the same but receive no subvention. I welcome the real time passenger information display signs which are now beginning to appear in counties close to Dublin. Last night, a tragedy occurred on Dawson Street which meant a curtailment of services. Shortly afterwards the display boards showed a notification that buses would not be running. However, after 8 p.m. everything went blank and people did not know what was happening. No information was available. A tool was available to provide information to customers but management failed to use it.
The town of Kilcock was bypassed and most public and private buses do not go through it, but we will vote on increasing CIE’s overdraft facility to up to €300 million and we have increased its subvention this year by almost €36 million. The taxpayers of Kilcock pay to help keep the companies operating but receive no service. Kilcock is a small growing town and if the number of bus services were increased, people would use them. They feel they are not getting value for the money they pay in tax because it goes to CIE but they receive no benefit from it. Deputy Catherine Murphy welcomed the increase in services to Maynooth, but three miles down the road a rail service operates on a single line.
I have my reservations about increasing an overdraft for a company which has not proved it is justified. As I stated, if it were a private company going to a bank seeking an increase in its overdraft facility on a day-to-day basis, it would not be entertained. One must question at all stages the management of the company and whether it uses taxpayers’ money in the proper and right manner and whether it gives a proper account of where the money goes. In future, we need further and improved scrutiny of where our taxpayers’ money is being used. I have received many e-mails today from people with regard to the respite care grant. All they seek is €22 million and we are giving in increased subvention of €36 million to CIE. One must question where one puts one’s money and if one does not receive proper value for it, one doubts whether it is worth investing.