End of the road for Expressway?
A chara, – Laura Slattery’s column is a welcome and refreshing contribution to the debate on public passenger transport, written from the perspective of the passenger (“Smiley political photoshoots won’t compensate for underfunding of public transport”, Media & Marketing, September 29th).
From 1987 until I retired in 2006 I was part of the Bus Éireann management team. We were proud of the Expressway network of frequent coach services, offering nationwide connectivity between major towns and linkages to the local bus services throughout the country. I am saddened to see a network which so many of us worked so hard to develop over the years now being dismembered.
The present crisis is due in no small measure to the flawed National Transport Authority policy of issuing licences to multiple competitors on the most popular long-distance routes. The market for bus travel is neither infinite nor capable of exponential growth. There are some routes which can support two operators, provided they do not duplicate each other’s schedules but compete fairly on service quality and product differentiation rather than on “bargain basement” pricing. But licensing up to three or four operators on the same route is a recipe for disaster and unsustainable in the long term. Towns no longer served by Expressway will now have to be covered by new public service obligation contracts, at greater cost to the taxpayer.
It was just over 100 years ago, in 1919, that regular bus services started to appear on Irish roads. Bus operation was, and still is, about carrying people from where they are to where they need or wish to be, in safety and reasonable comfort, as expeditiously as possible, at a price perceived as reasonable and affordable. Today, we see politicians, policymakers, planners and even some transport professionals losing sight of these basic principles.
Uniquely among all modes of public passenger transport, the bus can penetrate cities, towns, villages and the rural countryside to offer an effective and flexible response to community transport needs. It does not require the large capital investment and long lead times demanded by railway and tramway projects. These modes also have their place in the transport picture, catering for mass travel in high-density urban situations or large-scale long-distance movement. But the humble bus or coach deserves better than the contempt of politicians or the disdain of bean-counters and theoretical economists. – Is mise,
Sir, – If the Green Party wonders why people consider it a mostly middle-class Dublin party, there are a number of examples from just their first few months in Government. At the same time as new cycle lanes and Dart extensions have been announced to much applause from the party, large parts of Galway city were left without public transport for months, after the operator of a set of privatised routes halted operations, and Bus Éireann is considering shutting down public transport links between our major cities.
All this is taking place while the leader of the Green Party is the Minister for Transport. – Yours, etc,
TOMÁS M CREAMER,