Transport policy and industrial unrest
A chara, – Dublin-focused media outlets woke up last week to transport strikes, something that areas outside “the Pale” have been enduring for the previous week with barely a nod from the same enraged media as buses and trains in the capital ground to a halt.
The essence of the workers’ grievance is the Government’s unspoken drive to privatise our transport network. This will have a detrimental effect on rural communities, as has been the case in England, where those services have been degraded and fares increased by 156 per cent between 1995 and 2016. The consumer price index in the same period was 77 per cent.
Public transport is a service that it “costs” a state to run, unless of course it is in concentrated population centres where a lucrative return is guaranteed. Then the operation is given to a private operator, as is the case with the Luas trams in Dublin.
A similar project has been at play with provincial bus routes, where Bus Éireann is increasingly left with loss-making routes, thus providing it with less funding to internally cross-subsidise services and a necessarily substantial maintenance infrastructure.
This is on top of years of underinvestment, due in significant part, like other areas of our economy, to ongoing multibillion funding of bondholder bailouts.
The Government and the National Transport Authority solution is to target and downgrade the conditions of Bus Éireann staff while reducing income streams from surplus-generating routes that are increasingly again given out to private operators.
The terms and conditions of Bus Éireann staff are not extravagant but they are not abysmal conditions either.
May the efforts of cosseted Ministers and senior civil servants to degrade the services and working conditions of Bus Éireann not succeed. – Is mise,
Sir, – Surely we must move on from the mindset where public and semi-state companies are run to benefit the employees rather than the shareholders and customers.
If Bus Éireann cannot compete as a direct operator then perhaps it is time to change the model. Let private operators bid for a three- to five-year contract to operate a collection of routes and lease them the busses. Bus Éireann could perform due diligence to ensure compliance and quality of service.
The existing bus drivers could bid for the work. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – As I stood waiting for the 46A bus on Friday morning, I couldn’t help but be struck by the grumblings of my fellow passengers.
The general sentiment was that those workers who had taken action to defend their livelihoods, and by extension the ever-threatened provision of public service in this country, should be docked wages for “not doing their job”. I wondered would my fellow passengers be applying the same standard to Shane Ross.
The wheels on the bus go round and round, but our Minster for Transport is nowhere to be found. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – “Orchestrated secondary picketing” in the Bus Éireann dispute would be impossible without a conductor. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – Would I be correct in assuming that few, if any, of our elected representatives use Bus Éireann as their preferred mode of transport to and from the Dáil?
In a similar vein, I would also love to know how many of the above own cars more than 10 years old (and pay the exorbitant tax associated with same). If, as I suspect, the answers to the above are very few (I’m being kind) then one can see why there is no urgency to solve the present dispute. – Yours, etc,