Dáil Éireann - Volume 105 - 23 April, 1947-Closing the line
http://historical-debates.oireachtas.ie/ Committee on Finance. - Vote 55—Industry and Commerce (Resumed).
Debate resumed on Vote 55 (Industry and Commerce).

Mr. Donnellan:
In to-day's Irish Independent I read an article dealing with a matter which I was awaiting the opportunity to speak about, namely, the question of transport in this country at the moment, especially in relation to the live-stock industry. I want to make it plain to the Minister, no matter what Córas Iompair Éireann may think about the number of lorries provided or what they will carry from fairs, that that system of transport will never be a success so far as fairs are concerned. I do not remember it, but I believe that at one time farmers used to drive stock some 60 or 70 miles from fairs. I was delighted to hear the Minister yesterday, in reply to a question, stating that Córas Iompair Éireann could not close down any line without his consent. In Loughrea we have probably some of the largest fairs held in the West of Ireland. At two fairs [1194] held there in the last six weeks the transport position was scandalous. Cattle were kept there until 9 o'clock at night in an attempt to get them away, but it was not possible to do so.

I believe that the whole idea of Córas Iompair Éireann, which is a business concern, is to make everything a paying proposition. I believe the day will come when they will make an attempt to have this branch line, and other lines that are not a paying proposition, closed down. We find that from the Department of Local Government instructions are going out to county surveyors indicating to them that all new roads must be 40, 50 or 60 feet wide. Is it the policy of the Government, and will it be a direction of the Minister's Department, that in the near future railway lines generally will be closed down and that Córas Iompair Éireann will operate upon the roads, which are being maintained by the ratepayers, so that the railways company will not need to pay for the upkeep of the branch lines and the whole concern will be a paying proposition? Is that the idea? I believe it is.

It is rumoured that very soon the West of Ireland from Athlone will be completely cut off so far as railway traffic is concerned. There is an old and a very true saying that a straw will show how the wind blows. I believe the game behind the extraordinarily wide roads is that soon all the traffic will go by road and you will have the ratepayers and taxpayers paying for the upkeep of these roads. Of course, these roads will actually be the lines for Córas Iompair Éireann in the future. I am sure the Ceann Comhairle, who is one of the elected representatives for the constituency which Deputy Killilea and Deputy Beegan and I represent, has got a copy of a resolution which was passed by the Loughrea Agricultural Show Society— at least, the accompanying letter says that he did. That resolution says:—

“That we, the members of the Loughrea Agricultural Show Society, representative of the traders of Loughrea and the farming community of the surrounding districts, protest in the strongest manner possible [1195] against the action of Córas Iompair Éireann in closing down the branch line between Loughrea and Attymon. We consider this action highly injurious to the agricultural and livestock trade in this locality and a severe blow to the present prosperity of the town and surrounding districts. We call upon Córas Iompair Éireann to reopen the line as soon as general traffic is resumed.”

The letter accompanying the resolution says:—

“My committee has calculated that the permanent closing of the line will mean a loss of £20,000 per annum to the farmers of this locality owing to the difference between freight charges on lorries and on rail.”

The letter goes on to say:—

“Examples of hardship obtaining in Loughrea since the closing of the branch line were experienced on the 14th April. Approximately 22 passengers bound for Dublin were stranded on the streets of Loughrea on that date, due to the fact that the buses on their way from Galway to Dublin were packed by the time they reached Loughrea, and the 22 passengers who had waited for one hour were turned away.”

Just imagine the predicament in which those people in Loughrea, and I expect other portions of Galway, found themselves. When the buses left Galway they were packed and no other person could get accommodation on them. The letter refers to what happened at the fair there. It says:—

“At the March fair (cattle and sheep) held in Loughrea on the 28th March scenes of confusion never before experienced in Loughrea were witnessed in the loading of cattle and sheep.”

I am not so terribly dense that I do not realise that these lines were closed down on account of the shortage of coal, but I should like to know from the Minister is there a danger that, on the instructions of Córas Iompair Éireann or at their request, he will consent to the life lines of such towns as Loughrea being cut off. If he does that, it will paralyse all the small [1196] towns. What will towns like Loughrea do? They will simply be paralysed because, as everybody knows, all these towns depend on their railway lines; their progress depends on their fair and markets. That applies particularly to an important place like Loughrea, which is the home of live stock in South Galway. I appeal to the Minister to be careful that this is not the game, that eventually, in five or ten years' time, we will find all the railway lines removed and Córas Iompair Éireann carrying all the traffic over the roads. This may be the thin end of the wedge.

The Minister may say that that could never happen, that it would not be possible to do it, or that, if it does happen, quite as good a service can be procured. We in Galway and the West of Ireland generally are very anxious about this matter. I am sure Deputy Bartley and Deputy Mongan, if they were here, would agree with me. When the line from Galway to Clifden was closed down, glorious promises were made of accommodation that would be as good and even better. We saw what happened. People in certain parts of the west could not get a bag of flour during the emergency. It is said that transport is as good there as in days gone by, but I know it is not. That was the thin end of the wedge and it warned the people of Galway that they must look out and see that something similar will not happen on other lines.

Article from http://historical-debates.oireachtas.ie/