Commuters voice frustration and support for bus strike

Hundreds of thousands of passengers face travel disruptions on Friday and Saturday

Hundreds of thousands of bus passengers are facing travel disruptions  as a result of the industrial action which was prompted by plans announced last year by the National Transport Authority to put out to tender 10 per cent of routes. Photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times

Hundreds of thousands of bus passengers are facing travel disruptions as a result of the industrial action which was prompted by plans announced last year by the National Transport Authority to put out to tender 10 per cent of routes. Photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times

 

Commuters across the State were forced to find alternative transport to get to work on Friday morning as Dublin Bus and Bus Éireann bus drivers began a 48-hour strike over the potential privatisation of bus routes.

Emma Drohan from Celbridge had to drive to Leixlip to catch a train into Tara Street station rather than taking her usual bus from Lucan into the city. The journey took an hour instead of  the usual 40 minutes.

“I don’t really have much sympathy for bus drivers because I think at the end of the day you’ve got to be realistic, it’s inevitable that it’s going to happen,” said Ms Drohan. “You hear stories of the government pumping money into a loss making company, and you kind of go look, it’s our money going in there so it’s time for a change really.”

Linda Kennedy from Rush in Co Dublin was more sympathetic to bus drivers on the picket line, saying strike action was needed to bring about justice.

Ms Kennedy, who usually takes two buses to work, had to get a lift to the station, take a train into the city and then a Dublin Bike for the final stretch across the city centre.

“It’s not such a big deal, it’s just a bit more expensive on the train,” she said. “I feel these things are necessary, they don’t happen for no reason. It’s just a pity there wasn’t a way of working it out.”

Hundreds of thousands of bus passengers will face travel disruptions on Friday and Saturday as a result of the industrial action which was prompted by plans announced last year by the National Transport Authority to put out to tender 10 per cent of routes.

In Blanchardstown, Ike Ugu voiced his frustration at having to take a circuitous route into the city centre.

“I have to walk all the way to the train station to see if I can catch a train, and I’m not sure if I’m even going to catch it. It’s just a big hassle, when the buses aren’t running a lot of average people suffer. It’s not fair.

“I sympathise with every worker, people have rights to protest. However, in protesting, they have to consider the ordinary people, and sympathise and empathise with them too,” he said.

Also travelling from Blanchardstowm, Mark Cummins was happy to adjust his normal commute as a result of the industrial action.

“I think it’s a minor inconvenience for what they’re going through,” he said. “I think the bus drivers are being completely shafted. Sometimes strong-arm tactics are needed, and if you have the power to disrupt the system like they’re doing now then they should do it.”

Siobhán McGee said privatisation would have an overwhelmingly negative impact on transport services across the State.

“I don’t believe buses should be privatised, I believe they should be properly managed. The English trains never run on time because they were privatised and were split up into little bits with hundreds of little companies which is totally unmanageable.”

Bill McCanley, a member of Siptu who joined the picket line outside Phibsborough Dublin Bus depot at 4am on Friday, said the unions “totally reject” allegations that the industrial action was the result of an illegal ballot .

Mr McCanley was responding to the legal letters sent by Dublin Bus and Bus Éireann to Siptu and National Bus and Rail Unions (NBRU) which stated if industrial action went ahead they would “have no alternative but to issue proceedings immediately against you seeking damages for the losses suffered”.

“The provocative commentary by the management out of Dublin Bus and Bus Éireann last night certainly had the opposite effect that they thought they might have had because we won’t be intimidated by that sort of stuff,” said Mr McCanley.

“We know we have done this ballot correct, we know this is a trade dispute and we’ve said all along through the Siptu six points exactly what we’re about. We consider that provocative and an attempt to intimidate their staff.”

Liam Weston, Siptu shop steward for Dublin Bus in Phibsboro, said bus drivers apologised for any inconvenience caused to commuters but maintained the strike needed to go ahead.

“None of the drivers took the decision lightly,” said Mr Weston. “A lot of these drivers see the same passengers everyday, they don’t want to disrupt their customers.”

“Although we are fighting for our own rights we are also fighting to keep public transport public. Passengers suffer ultimately in the end.”