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Asset Publisher. I cannot comment on the standard of the lines, but I welcome the fact that so many millions have been spent on providing continuous welded lines because that is the ultimate in rail safety. However, I am concerned at the numbers being packed into trains. It may be that people will have to be told they cannot travel on a particular train and that they will have to wait for another train in about an hour and a half or whatever.
Safety should be of paramount importance. I welcome the Bill and look forward to a full consolidation of the Railway Acts since I appreciate the opportunity to speak on this Bill, which I consider it to be of great importance to the travelling public. CIE enjoys huge support from the travelling public. Increasing numbers of people are anxious to use the rail network because of the safety aspect at a time when more accidents are occurring on our roads. However, the position has changed somewhat in recent months with the introduction of the penalty points system.
It is important that the Bill is before the House and that Members can contribute to it on behalf of the public, who have been so loyal to CIE over many years. The train service here has been overlooked and under-utilised for many years. In this city and in towns and cities across the country, thousands of people spend far too much time in their cars stuck in traffic.
They waste precious natural resources in gridlock adding to air pollution and swapping family time for commuting time. For too long trains have taken a back seat to cars, buses and aeroplanes in our transport development programme. It is of paramount importance that the rail system is operated in accordance with the highest standards of safety for the travelling public.
There is an opinion that the laws that oversee the operation of our railway system are out of date. In these environmentally conscious times it would be well to remember the positive aspects associated with train travel. Train travel is significantly more environmentally friendly than most other forms of transport. Aeroplane travel causes more pollution per passenger mile than train travel.
Some estimates indicate it is between three and eight times as much. Car travel also produces a higher level of pollution per passenger. It makes good sense to transport several hundred people at a time instead of each individual adding to gridlock and traffic chaos on our roads. If the public is offered a safe, reliable and pleasant alternative, essentially a train service in which it can have confidence, it will choose the train over the car.
It must also recognise it is time to offer a reliable and passenger-friendly service. Many of those travelling by train at weekends are packed in corridors and pay a huge price for the service. That is not good enough. We have all heard of older people standing in carriages. That is no way for a modern network to operate. The train network is useful not only for passenger transport but also for freight. There are a number of specific advantages in this regard.
The presence of heavy goods vehicles on our roads should, if possible, be minimised. The consequences for a car user or cyclist who happens to have an accident with a heavy goods vehicle can be serious. By encouraging rail freight services, the Government would remove a certain number of heavy goods vehicles from our roads. This would have positive safety implications for road users and would also be environmentally friendly.
There are many instances of where we lost opportunities to transport goods by rail and I instance one such example which is a crying shame. In north Tipperary, Lisheen Mines transports its goods from Lisheen to the port through towns and villages along an already busy stretch of road. I do not know whether the planning authorities were responsible but more thought should have gone into this.
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These goods should be transported by rail rather than road, particularly since the Dublin-Cork railway line is so close to Lisheen Mines. The company was allowed to take a decision to transport goods by road but it should have been encouraged to transport them by rail.
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When giving out the mining licences, the Government or Tipperary county council should have looked at the rail network. It was a missed opportunity because those trucks are travelling hourly through towns and villages on an already busy route. If we examine the existing rail network, one can see the potential of freight transport. In my constituency, the rail network runs through Clonmel, Cahir and Tipperary providing a link between the important port of Rosslare and Limerick Junction where the network diverts to Cork, Tralee or Ennis. In this way, the rail network can provide an important freight link between the west and the east.
Recently, the rail line from Rosslare has been in the news. It is a railway line which is totally under exploited. There is significant potential for that rail network but it has a bad passenger service. I recently used that passenger service to see the situation first hand because I knew I would have the opportunity to speak about it in the House and that there was widespread concern in the constituency in regard to what was available.
There is a bad service once a day for passengers travelling on that line. The train is in poor condition and it is not feasible for people who wish to travel regularly to use that network. The reason that network is closing is that its potential has not been exploited. I welcome the statement by the Minister for the Environment and Local Government in which he gave a commitment to the south-eastern region, particularly to that railway network.
I urge the Government to do what it can in this regard. It would be a crying shame if this generation of politicians allowed that wonderful infrastructure which serves the south-eastern region to close. There is significant support for it across the political spectrum and I welcome the Minister for the Environment and Local Government's commitment to it.
It has significant potential and generations to come will criticise us or will see us as the generation which allowed that wonderful infrastructure to close. The south-eastern region needs that infrastructure. Towns such as Tipperary Town, one of the poorest in the country, are served by that network. I thank Deputy Hayes for sharing his time.
The title of this Bill indicates that safety is of paramount importance and cannot be overlooked.
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No one wishes to see a train crash. Of all crashes, apart from those involving aircraft, train crashes result in the most loss of human life as we have seen recently in England where many such deaths have occurred. It is imperative that we keep rail safety at the top of the agenda. Many Deputies spoke about the need to increase the number of services on the main lines which I support.
To attract customers, it is essential that park and ride facilities are located at most stations. In my constituency of Kildare South, such facilities have been provided in Monasterevin and Kildare town and it is amazing to see the number of cars using them. I have seen some cars park outside the perimeters of the park and ride facilities thus causing traffic jams. Having said that, one can see the benefit of park and ride facilities to the areas. We must go further and provide park and ride facilities at other stations. In the next year, those who use the N7 will need such facilities in their areas because there will be new interchanges at Kill and Johnstown where there are traffic lights at present.
Those lights are causing traffic mayhem every day. Today, it took me two and a half hours to make a 50 mile trip. One can imagine the problems which will be created when the road works start at these two locations. That is happening at present in that there is a build up of cars back to the motorway thus causing problems in relation to speed and so on. People travelling on the motorway suddenly find cars and trucks stopped in front of them.
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We have spoken at length about the extension of the Arrow service. The provision of the Arrow and DART services have enabled people to leave their cars at home or at the station. This service must be extended to other areas. Deputies from Carlow and south Kildare have argued for an extension of the Arrow service to facilitate those areas.
It is imperative to keep moving towards that objective and the same applies to the DART services which should be extended along the east coast, past Greystones to Arklow. That would ensure that the maximum number of people can avail of such rail services, thus reducing road usage. Improved rail freight services have been called for. Regular road users can see the increase in freight vehicles which take up a huge amount of space and pose a danger to road safety.
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