At a Council meeting on the 20th August 2012 I requested an;
“Update on toilet facilities at Giant’s Causeway and Bushmills railway station”
(Requested by Councillor P McShane)
When I asked about the toilets I was told that the Council could not inform me of the opening hours because they didn’t know. I pressed the matter asking for carrying figures and the number of days of operation of the train service. I was again informed that no such information existed and when I asked why, Moyle Chairman, Councillor Sandra Hunter, ruled that I ask no more questions as I only had the opening times of the toilets on the agenda. I was astounded. Well not really! I expected a level of protection to emanate from somewhere in the chamber for the Giants Causeway and Bushmills Railway Company Ltd. I don’t know why I expected it. Was it because the director of the Company is none other than the controversial developer, Seymour Sweeney? He seems to have more than the one friend in the chamber and from several different parties.
Seymour Sweeney!!! Now theirs a blast from the past! Remember the whole debate on the Causeway and who was attempting to get who’s hands on the biggest assets at the World Heritage Site. The famous lines, “I’m minded to give it to Mr. Sweeney” from Arlene Foster and the classic, “I know of him”. From Ian Paisley Junior when asked about his relationship with Sweeney. Ian and Arlene of course not only knew Mr. Sweeney put it transpired, were DUP party colleagues.
So anyhow, back to the Railway Company! Let me explain so as I may confuse the reader some more!!!!
On the 29th of July, 1998 Moyle District Council entered into a Lease Agreement with the Giant’s Causeway & Bushmills Railway Company Ltd for valuable lands at Ardihannon Townland Bushmills. The agreement was for the operation of a railway and passenger terminal with associated facilities and offices and a railway track and track bed.
The lease was for 50 years and was subject to certain clauses that would protect the interest of the rate-payer in Moyle.
£1 per annum for a period of five years from the 1st of November 1998 and thereafter, reviewed at five yearly intervals.
As with any lease, therein contains an operating agreement for the purpose of operating a business in a manner that would benefit the rate-payer, tourist and indemnify Moyle of any claims arising from the operation of the said business.
The operating agreement contains measures that ensure the full input of Moyle Council given their interest.
Some conditions contained in the operating agreement include;
- to perform and observe the covenants and conditions contained in the Lease and to indemnify Moyle from and against any claims in connection with the non-performance or non-observance of such covenants and conditions.
- to comply with all obligations imposed upon it as operator of the railway service including the obligation to employ sufficient staff and equipment to ensure proper and efficient functioning of the service.
- maintain machinery employers and public and other third party liability insurances which the parties may from time to time agree necessary and on request provide copies of the Policies of the said Insurances to Moyle.
- save when the Company cannot operate the service because of a Force Majeure Event operate the service along the route for a minimum period of 116 days per annum.
- provide Moyle with monthly carrying figures on the service, such numbers to be provided within 2 weeks of the end of each month.
- to consult Moyle as to the level of fares charged from time to time in respect of the service.
As the reader will notice, Moyle should have received correspondence from Seymour and the Railway Company on at least a monthly basis. But Seymour missed a few months. Council wrote to The Giant’s Causeway and Bushmills Railway Company several times requesting figures and information in accordance with the agreement.
For the reader, let me throw in this clause in the operating agreement signed by Moyle and the Giants Causeway and Bushmills Railway Company;
- Moyle shall be entitled to terminate this Agreement where the company remains in breech of its obligations…………
So in the fourteen years since it entered into the agreement with Moyle, how often did the Company supply the Council and the rate-payer with figures? No times. None! Zero! It is my opinion that, the director has treated requests from the Council with complete contempt. It seems other Councillors are willing to help treat the rate-payer with contempt.
What about the five year review of the cost of the lease? The review that could have seen the income increase and the hard pressed rate-payer gain an income from the venture? It never took place. Neither too did the review in 2008.
To keep the Chairman of Moyle from attempting to stifle debate I returned to Council on the 10th of September with the following motion;
That this Council requests any and all relevant documentation and figures as per Lease Agreement with the Bushmills & Giant’s Causeway Railway Company for the last five years and furthermore, that this Council requests figures going forward to be provided as set out in the Lease Agreement.
(Requested by Councillor P McShane)
Another attempt to play down the last 14 years ensued from several Councillors before the majority requested the figures. I want to stress that in researching this whole episode, I found that Moyle staff done all in their power to have the Lease acted upon as per operating agreement. Requests were made at different times but the requests were ignored.
Since the opening of the Causeway visitors centre, parking is at a premium and enjoys a premium price. 70 parking spaces in the Giants Causeway end of the Railway line, turned over 3 times a day at a conservative estimate with a £6 charge. Work that out for a week. Then ask yourselves why I brought this up! Its not hard to guess why others left it buried!