Dublin Bus behaviour against rival 'disgraceful'

 

THE OIREACHTAS Committee on Transport is to seek an urgent meeting with Dublin Bus after members accused the company of "using taxpayers' money to put competitors out of business and make commuters' journey times longer".

A Fine Gael spokesman described the company's behaviour as appalling and disgraceful.

Addressing allegations from private, Dublin-based bus operator Mortons that Dublin Bus had forced it to withdraw from serving some city routes, committee chairman Frank Fahey described the allegations as disturbing. Mr Fahey said Dublin Bus and Mortons would be asked to come before the committee.

The controversy overshadowed yesterday's launch of the committee's two-year action plan aimed at ensuring 80 per cent of Dublin commuters use bus services by 2010. A major recommendation is that buses should be allowed to use the Dublin Port Tunnel to help tackle traffic congestion.

The committee intended to focus on well-flagged recommendations in the report, including banning private cars from Dame Street, College Green, Westmoreland Street and O'Connell Street. It recommended the provision of two temporary Liffey bridges and the acquisition of an additional 350 buses for the city network.

But as the launch got under way yesterday, Fine Gael transport spokesman Fergus O'Dowd said Dublin Bus funding had doubled since 2000 and he accused the company of "using that to put private bus operators out of business".

He said the allegations were that Dublin Bus had dramatically increased its services on what was known as the "circle line" because of competition from Mortons.

He also said Dublin Bus had failed to respond to eight letters from the Department of Transport, while the company also operated unauthorised routes. It was he said, "appalling and disgraceful" behaviour.

Asked if he supported the comments, Mr Fahey repeated it was the committee's intention to ask Dublin Bus and Mortons to come before it as soon as possible.

He said he had talks with Ceann Comhairle John O'Donoghue about the prospect of introducing the Dublin Transport Office scheme, One Small Step, for Oireachtas members. This would involve TDs and Senators agreeing not to take their cars to work on one day a week. While its adoption would require formal approval by the Oireachtas, he said its implementation could negate the need to build a proposed underground car park in Leinster House.

Mr Fahey was supported by Timmy Dooley TD who said since taking the train from his Co Clare constituency he had avoided having a car parked in Leinster House.

Michael Kennedy TD, Dublin North, said the key point of the committee's report was that buses were an absolute priority, but they had to be more efficient.

In addition to the traffic management aspects, the 100-page report also recommends an increase in bus marketing and infrastructural developments such as additional bus corridors and on-street ticket vending machines.

The report noted that significant financial resources have been made available in recent years by the Department of Transport for bus-based park-and-ride facilities but there had been very limited take-up by local authorities.