Healy Rae or McGrath will not stop public transport plan reforms- Ross

Talks convened by Shane Ross with unions and authorities are under way

 

Independent TDs Mattie McGrath or Danny Healy Rae will not be allowed to obstruct reforms in local public transport plans, the Minister for Transport Shane Ross has said.

He also said they will not be permitted to sink life-saving legislation by filibustering and wasting Dáil time.

Speaking at round table talks with stakeholders in the sector on developing a new public transport policy, he said the new expansion of local link services was a perfect example of listening to passengers, recognising a problem and working with local providers to reach creative solutions.

“However, even with the combined budgets of all Government departments, I still wouldn’t be able to get a bus to the door of every pub from every house in Kerry, much to the annoyance of some deputies.”

Mr Ross told the meeting that he wanted to hear radical ideas for the future of public transport policy.

He said he would “welcome heresy” and seriously different ideas.

“Transport needs radical ideas,” he said.

Independent TD Danny Healy Rae.Photograph: Alan Betson / The Irish Times
Independent TD Danny Healy Rae.Photograph: Alan Betson / The Irish Times

Earlier, the National Bus and Rail Union (NBRU) warned current transport policies are a recipe for disaster and will inevitably lead to widespread industrial action across the sector.

In a statement issued in advance of a roundtable talks on transport on Monday, which have been convened by Mr Ross, the union claimed that “transport mandarins” in the Department of Transport and the National Transport Authority (NTA) were “out of control”.

It said the department and the NTA were responsible for strikes that have hit the sector in recent years and warned of further industrial action in future if existing policies were followed.

NBRU general secretary Dermot O’Leary strongly criticised the NTA policy of putting out to tender routes that had traditionally been provided by the State-owned bus companies.

Independent TD Mattie McGrath. Photograph: Eric Luke / The Irish Times
Independent TD Mattie McGrath. Photograph: Eric Luke / The Irish Times

‘Throwing money’

“The NTA, in its overzealous attempts to mimic Transport for London, carryout its business in a spendthrift fashion, throwing money to consultants akin to snuff at a wake, ripping apart the State-owned companies and replacing them with multinational corporations paying Dickensian-type terms and conditions, is a recipe for disaster,” he said.

“It will lead to the inevitability of future industrial action across the CIÉ companies in order to protect terms and conditions, and those in the new companies as they strive to achieve parity with their colleagues in CIÉ.”

Mr O’Leary described the new talks convened by the Minister as a “PR gig”. He said it was far removed from a properly constituted public transport stakeholders forum which would have responsibility for policy formulation and have the power to hold people to account for planning and the expenditure of large amount of taxpayers’ money.

Injection of funds

Siptu divisional organiser Greg Ennis said that while the new forum convened by the Minister was long overdue, underfunding of the public transport system and attempted undercutting by some private operators, through the provision of vastly inferior terms and conditions, continued to create uncertainty and hardship for workers.

He said an NTA report, which two years ago recommended an immediate €108 million injection of funds into Irish Rail, continued to gather dust while he also called for Bus Éireann staff to receive pay rises in line with those secured in Irish Rail and Dublin Bus.

He said the issue of pensions in the CIÉ group was a “ticking timebomb” and that this would cast a shadow over all future engagements with the Minster.

“While we clearly need to avoid the sequence of industrial conflict which has seriously discommoded the travelling public and our members over recent years, sufficient investment in the public transport service is fundamental,” Mr Ennis said.

Privatisation

Mr Ross is expected to tell transport sector interests at the meeting on Monday that he will not be advocating for an agenda of privatisation or be seeking to represent the management of the State companies.

He is expected to say that his primary focus is the public transport user and ensuring that they get from A to B, in an efficient, accessible, sustainable and reasonably priced way.

He is expected to describe the round table talks as the start of a new review of public transport policy. Mr Ross is expected to announce that additional peak time Luas service capacity will come on stream when a new timetable comes into effect in June.

Additional capacity on bus services will become available later in the summer while the months ahead will also see the introduction of a 10-minute frequency Dart service and an expansion of the rail service from Kildare through the Phoenix Park tunnel to Grand Canal Dock.