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Transport Minister rejects the need for extra buses

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.

Indeed.

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.

2 Responses to “Transport Minister rejects the need for extra buses”

  1. So…let me get this straight…We have a Minister for Transport who runs a Department which is unable to operate it`s own route licencing structure (viz The Patton Flyer situation)

    The same Minister presides over an Integrated Ticketing process already some €40 million in the red with NO actual return for it.
    Indeed so bad is the situation now,that our Minister needs yet more outside consultants to tell him what he needs to hear.

    Now,this Minister feels a shiver of uncertainty over whether or not the glaringly insufficient numbers of Buses in service are actually more than enough for the plebs,cue the white gloved Tokyo Underground People Pushers coming soon to a Dublin Bus stop near you !!

    Oh Jesu ! who will rid me of this turbulent Politician…in fact ALL of the breed could be dispensed with along with a container load of “Independent” Consultants and then we might have the makings of progress.

    It is becoming blindingly apparent that the State is rapidly running out of funds and that these political creeps are going to slash and burn in an attempt to preserve their own slime filled careers.

    Instead of presiding over Multi Billion € grand schemes such as the NDP and T21 all we really needed was enough people with interest in public transport to be given control over the systems.

    There are so many locations where the targeted spending of relatively small amounts of money would result in major improvements to service levels but because the suggestions come from the lowest levels they are deemed of little value.

    This results in a succession of wide-boys (and Girls),careerists all,peddling ever more delusional Computer Based schemes to “Improve” our public transport services.

    The integrated ticketing fiasco remains the most obvious of these madcap schemes as a seemingly bottomless pot of Public Funds is divvied out amongst a favoured collection of “experts” all of whom fail to remember that we HAD a fully intigrated Ticketing system 40 years ago,when we called it a Rambler Ticket,valid on ALL CIE Road and Rail passenger systems Urban and Rural for a specified time.

    If the headline of this article is actually an indication of Minister Dempseys thinking then we can kiss goodbye to any notions of a high frequency full bus service in Dublin.

    Instead all we will see is yet more sharp suited Laptop Larry`s doling out ever larger amounts of increasingly meaningless statistics in an attempt to convince the Emperor of Meath that his new clothes really are the biz…

  2. Yep, couldn’t agree more.

    I’m not sure if I made it clear enough in the article, but I think that all the recent events (car free proposals, the luas bridge without a luas, the 41x situation and even the Patton Flyer fiasco that you bring up) are all connected – and it all points towards the minister trying to engineer a situation where nobody is responsible for anything much like the situation in the UK.

    This would leave the way clear to privatise the whole lot and leave us with an almighty mess. The only thing holding it back right now are the drivers and their unions. Unfortunately the public, through a lack of understanding of what is actually going on (nudged along by Dempsey etc..) are not as behind them as much as they should be – they see the aircoaches and swords expresses of this world and think that a glorious future of private operations lie before them – the government’s unwillingness to insist on private operators taking on public service (i.e. crap) routes in addition to the plum, profitable, ones is making this worse. If we must have private operators, so be it, but let’s level the playing field.

    As far as integrated tickets go – we’ve said it before and we’ll keep saying it, what’s wrong with the bits of cardboard we have now? Sheer madness, you can tell none of these idiots ever use public transport, they have no idea about what the real issues which need addressing are. The only smart card these iijits should be looking at is the one marked p45.

    So Alek, all of that said, what can we do about it? You’re a driver (right?), I’m a passenger, what can we do to sort this out?

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