Noel Dempsey says he’s not sure, doesn’t know and remains to be convinced.
While appearing to make all the right noises to the media, there is something of the same old story when you actually take a look at the kind of things Minister for Transport, Noel Dempsey, is saying in relation to bus provision in Dublin, and public transport in general.
Speak with a member of the travelling masses and they will agree that it’s great that Dublin Bus are after getting some newer buses recently, but Seamus Public will also be keen to point out that he is still uncomfortably crammed onto the shiny new bus, staring at someones armpit the whole way to work. This, after probably waiting quite a bit too. And that’s assuming he can even get on a bus that isn’t completely rammed in the first place.
The reason for this is that these new buses cruising around our city streets at an average speed of 15 km/h are actually, in the main, replacements for vehicles which are coming to the end of their useful life.
For instance, take a look at the Transport21’s commitments for buses in Dublin. Although there is a provision for 300 buses, in actual fact this is only a net gain of 100, since 200 were earmarked as replacements for smoke spewing old models which generally get sold off to poor unfortunates in provincial England.
Meanwhile, the stated policy of this government is for more people to get out of their cars and onto the buses (since Luas and DART are at full capacity at rush hour). Take a look at the transport minister’s own document “20/20 Vision – Sustainable Travel and Transport” – it agrees that we need more priority lanes for buses, we need more buses operating in Dublin and that the 1100 currently in use by Dublin Bus is insufficient to meet demand. The minister himself has said in the past that we will get an extra 350 in the next two years.
So, are we all agreed that Dublin needs more buses and the government will stump up the cash to pay for them?
Apparently Minister Dempsey doesn’t see things that way, notwithstanding what it says in documents produced by his own department. Appearing before the Oireachtas Transport Committee last month the minister made a few astonishing comments. Firstly, in response to the Chairman lauding the promise to deliver 350 extra buses:
“The Chairman mentioned the introduction of extra buses over the next couple of years. The first stage in the process is to ensure that we are getting full value for the buses we have at the moment, although I am not sure that we are. I do not know but I remain to be convinced.
We have initiated a study on the capacity and use of existing buses. If that shows we need an extra 350 buses then that is the direction in which we will go, but I am not yet convinced of that.”
So after announcing the provision of 350 new buses he pulls the rug out, because he isn’t sure and needs someone to convince him. We’re happy to save him the money he’ll waste on yet another study by funding a monthly bus ticket for him. Noel can then see for himself if the buses are being used to their “full capacity” and providing “value for money”.
What about the money being lost to the economy by having the workforce of the land stuck in traffic rather than at their place of employment? He needs to have a chat with the finance minister and explain why he is not sorting the situation out right now – public transport is the oxygen of our economy, don’t provide it and you are suffocating our competitiveness.
He didn’t stop there though.
“…that there is no point in having 1450 Buses parked in streets around the place instead of 1100”
Parked around the place? Perhaps the minister caught a glimpse of a bus terminus from the back seat of his limo and briefly got confused. Or maybe he was simply watching our fair city’s traffic moving at it’s normal pace, which after all bears a striking resemblance to a car park.
So, if he thinks they are all parked up, why does he think that is the case?
“In acknowledging the difficulties that arise when there are two peak transport periods between 7 a.m. and 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. and 7 p.m., and in order to cope with these, there will be a need for flexibility in respect of work practices which does not exist at present.”
Oh dear, with talk like that he won’t win any popularity contest with the unions. Enter the NBRU, in an open letter to the minister:
It would appear from your comments that it’s your understanding that a lack of flexibility on behalf of the Drivers is somehow responsible for the fact that all Buses are not in service in the off peak periods.
Nothing could be further from the truth. Whilst we are continually lobbying for better frequency during the off peak, however due to lack of adequate funding by your Department, Management are unwilling to accede to our persistent requests for the enhancement of the off peak services.
As regards the obvious demand for an extra 350 Buses… fudging making a decision by initiating a further study on the capacity of the existing buses will only exacerbate the frustration of the travelling public.
We worry that this is all part of a privatisation masterplan, a doomsday scenario of the wholescale deregulation of the bus system in Dublin, with the DTA taking on a “Transport for London” type role, and the bus companies tendering for routes. It’s clear that the 350 extra buses will come via private operators and not Dublin Bus, and they will be given control of some plum routes keep them sweet.
Dublin Bus itself might be run down or, more likely, split up into separate companies on a garage-by-garage basis. The continuous talk of the need to reform Irish transport legislation all points towards this. If this is what happens it will be a bad day for Dublin.
Some people say what a good job this minister is doing in comparison to Seamus “unlicensed driver” Brennan and Martin “what’s going on?” Cullen. To be honest we’re not sure, don’t know and remain to be convinced.