Staff shortages and software problems are the main factors behind a deterioration of bus services for customers, as well as continuing inaccuracies in real-time passenger information available at bus-stops and on smartphones, the two main bus operators in Dublin will tell an Oireachtas committee on Tuesday.
In a submission to the Joint Committee on Transport, Dublin Bus acknowledges that the accuracy of real-time passenger information has deteriorated in recent months, as reported at the weekend by The Irish Times.
It has said there have been software problems which it has “been working hard to fix”. It said those technical issues “unfortunately coincided” with the current driver recruitment shortages.
“This has resulted in the company having to cancel some trips due to [driver shortages]. The cancelled trips should be removed from the real-time system in a timely manner. But in some cases, this was not happening.”
It said a new process was being put in place to address this issue. Dublin commuters have complained of “phantom” or “disappearing” buses becoming more of a problem, leaving people stranded at bus stops.
In its statement, the company said it managed to operate 97 per cent of all services for the first six months on 2022 within three minutes of scheduled time, short just 1 per cent of the target. However, since the summer, this has fallen to 95 per cent, 3 per cent off target.
Dublin Bus says difficulties in recruiting new staff, particularly drivers, is the main factor behind the decline in operating efficiency.
“The pace of expansion of the network is outstripping the pace of recruitment of new staff, particularly in the driver grade,” it says in a statement to the committee.
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The company has recruited an additional 290 drivers in 2022 and has conducted a big recruitment drive. “However, even with this number of new drivers, we are not keeping pace with the rate of network expansion,” according to the statement.
Dublin Bus reports that customer demand had returned to pre-Covid levels and it is carrying 400,000 customers a day, over 7,000 trips.
Go-Ahead, which operates 30 routes in total, also acknowledged there have been “issues related to our services”.
It also said it had been impacted by staff shortages.
“While we have consistently run a proactive recruitment campaign since the beginning of the year, our efforts to get drivers on the road over the past several months were hampered by an unavoidable external backlog in acquiring essential paperwork for commercial drivers,” it said.
In its statement to the committee, chaired by Fine Gael TD Kieran O’Donnell, the National Transport Authority (NTA) has said it implemented four of the 11 phases of the new BusConnects Dublin partnership. BusConnects involves a complete redesign of the network of bus routes in the capital, new bus corridors on the busiest routes, a new ticketing system and the use of a new bus fleet.
The NTA said the Government decision to reduce fares had contributed to the very quick recovery in passenger numbers on Dublin’s bus services in the past six months.
It also points out that the impact of traffic congestion on punctuality had intensified in recent weeks. “This can result in curtailments or cancellation of services as services are running so late. On the busiest bus routes, bus lanes are only in place for less than one-third of the corridor. This means that for, most of the journey, buses are competing for space with general traffic.
“The only solution to this is to reduce the number of cars on the road and move as quickly as the planning process allows to deliver the core bus corridor projects as part of BusConnects,” it says.