Coronavirus: Bus Éireann warns Expressway services at risk
Company says operations could end due to decline in passenger numbers and revenue
Bus Eireann warned the commercial Expressway service was at risk. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill
The sustainability of the Bus Éireann Expressway network is at risk, with the coronavirus outbreak causing a decline in passenger numbers, the company has said.
In a letter to the National Bus and Rail Union (NBRU) on Monday, the State-owned company said a number of commercial bus operators had already ceased to run some services.
“No one could foresee the challenges presented by Covid-19 given the growth momentum we have achieved to date, but will require our partnership to confront and address the predicament this crisis presents in the days and weeks ahead”, its chief executive Stephen Kent said.
The NBRU had expressed strong concern about staff at Bus Éireann and the other State-owned transport companies having to handle cash and the absence of hand sanitisers.
In a note to members, the union said Expressway was a commercial operation which relied exclusively on passenger revenue for the 500 jobs it supported.
It said Expressway could not keep running if no money was collected.
“Expressway serves a multitude of hospitals. Something will need to be done (probably post crisis) to reconcile the social service/obligations that the company and its staff are fulfilling at this crucial time and the notion that it (Bus Eireann) can commercially ‘wash its face’ through dramatically reduced revenue.”
“The job of the NBRU is trying to keep all staff in gainful employment whilst trying to keep workers safe.”
In his letter on the union’s concerns Mr Kent said confirmed that hand sanitiser would be available for all drivers and that a new enhanced cleaning service would be put in place to “target all vehicles and address the cab and all customer touch points”.
Mr Kent said the ability to provide for social distance on-board the company’s fleet of buses was “a continuing development”. He said the company’s priority “has been our drivers and to date we have taken action by cordoning off the seats directly behind the driver”.
Dublin Bus said it was putting in place 100 additional contractors to “deep clean” the entire fleet with particular emphasis on the driver’s cab and hard surfaces that were frequently touched.
The bulk of drivers at Dublin Bus do not handle cash as part of passengers’ fares.
Irish Rail chief executive Jim Meade said: “We are informing commuters to where possible use non-cash channels (Leap, online booking and collection) or cash payment at Ticket Vending Machines where possible. However, as a public service provider to the whole community, a small number of customers may have difficulties or barriers to such channels. However, I am confident that we can dramatically reduce cash handling for staff, and with the distribution of hand sanitisers ensure regular and timely cleaning is available.”
He said train carriages would be disinfected and the company had received a consignment of hand sanitiser.
He said the company would also update HSE advisory posters in stations and on trains with the new advisory stressing social distancing.
“Allied with the dramatic reduction in numbers travelling, this will facilitate social distancing, and we will review with the National Transport Authority and other transport operators if further measures are necessary.”