Go-Ahead Ireland, which operates more than 20 bus routes across Dublin, is being fined for failing to adequately deliver services it was contracted to.
The private operator, which took over up to 10 per cent of routes formerly operated by Dublin Bus in 2017, told the National Transport Authority (NTA) it had had "higher than expected driver resignations" which had impacted its capacity to deliver services.
In correspondence to Dún Laoghaire TD Richard Boyd Barrett (People Before Profit), dated July 5th, the NTA said: "Unfortunately the delivery of certain bus services by Go-Ahead during June was below the target set out in the contract. In accordance with the terms of that contract the operator is liable to financial penalties where performance is below the agreed targets and the NTA does impose penalties in those instances."
An NTA spokesman confirmed the company would be penalised financially with the amount “being assessed at the moment”. This would be communicated to Go-Ahead in the coming weeks.
“Penalties are part and parcel of such public service obligation contracts,” he said. “Last year, for example Dublin Bus were penalised to the tune of about €1.2million and Bus Éireann by about €600,000. The targets set for Go-Ahead Ireland were more ambitious than for Dublin Bus and Bus Éireann.”
In its letter, the NTA said it is now “seeing an improvement in the operator’s performance” but it would “continue to monitor and review the situation” with Go-Ahead.
Mr Boyd Barrett had been "prompted" to contact the NTA, he says, because of the increasing volume of complaints to his office about Go-Ahead-operated routes in his constituency – especially the number 59 from Dún Laoghaire to Killiney, the 63 from Dún Laoghaire to Kilternan and the 111 from Dalkey to Brides Glen.
“The complaints have been about buses not turning up, buses not arriving when they’re meant to, and there have been complaints about the Go-Ahead app not working. This is serious. It’s creating huge difficulties for pensioners trying to keep doctor appointments and parents getting kids to school on time.
“Really it has confirmed our worst fears about the privatisation and outsourcing of vital public services. It’s also confirmed what we knew anecdotally – that Go-Ahead can’t keep drivers and that’s down to pay and conditions.”
Dermot O'Leary, general secretary of the National Bus and Railworkers Union (NBRU), said the the development came as "no surprise".
“This is a multinational company getting €172 million in tax-payers’ money for a five-year contract. They are losing drivers to Dublin Bus, Bus Éireann and beyond and this is what you call a race-to-the-bottom, in workers’ conditions and service to the public. It’s no surprise this is happening on Fine Gael’s watch. The only way to run public services is to have them in public ownership.”
Managing director of Go-Ahead Ireland, Ed Wills, said: "As a company we are dedicated to improving public transport for customers, and to not only achieve, but outperform, the targets set out for us by the NTA. Our experience of operating services in Ireland is growing daily and in conjunction with the NTA we are planning further improvements to our timetables over the coming months."