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Dublin: 2 °C Wednesday 18 October, 2017
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What we know about Go-Ahead, the company that will run 24 Dublin Bus routes

Yesterday was a day of highs and lows for the UK company – it won the Dublin bus contract but lost another for train services in the British West Midlands.

Image: James Horan via RollingNews.ie

ON THE DAY that British transport company Go-Ahead won the contract to take over 10% of Dublin Bus’ routes, it lost a railway contract back in the heart of the UK.

While Ireland’s National Transport Authority (NTA) announced that Go-Ahead had won out over Dublin Bus for control of 24 bus routes operating around the outskirts of the city centre, the UK Department for Transport confirmed that the West Midlands train franchise would go to a Dutch-Japanese company instead of Go-Ahead.

It’s not a great start for the winner of the NTA’s tendering process, which they said was carried out to compare and improve Dublin’s bus services.

Making matters worse were the concerns of unions and some TDs – who said that this could mark the start of the privatisation of Dublin Bus, and a “race to the bottom” for drivers’ pay packages.

What was announced yesterday?

The UK transport company was one of six applicants shortlisted during the application process.

After four applicants withdrew their bid because a bus depot would not be provided as part of the contract, the final decision was between Go-Ahead and the semi-State company Dublin Bus.

Map Map of 24 Go-Ahead routes Source: NTA

After the preferred bidder for the role was announced yesterday, concerns were raised about work conditions for the new drivers and whether the deal was, or would eventually lead to, the privatisation of Dublin Bus (or part of it).

But the NTA maintains that this is not the privatisation of Dublin Bus and merely a system like the Luas – with routes and vehicles owned by the state and operated by a private company.

The transport authority said that timetables, routes, fares and Leap Cards would be set by the State for Go-Ahead to implement, meaning no routes would be cancelled or hiked up in price (well, not without State approval).

It added that the purpose of the tender was to compare and improve its city services, and that it chose routes on the outskirts of the city that wouldn’t be affected by Luas Cross City diversions and provide unnecessary complications.

If Go-Ahead succeeds in improving the service – by making it more punctual, for example – then we could see more routes being put out to tender. The NTA said it will make that decision in 2019 (Go-Ahead will be operating all 24 Dublin Bus routes by February 2019, remember).

So what has the company done?

GoAhead The areas Go-Ahead's train and bus fleets reach. Source: Go-Ahead

Go-Ahead are one of the largest operators of bus services in the UK, running around a quarter of London’s buses, regional buses that account for around 7% of the UK market, British train services, and bus services in Singapore.

Its UK bus services include Brighton & Hove, Plymouth Citybus, and a variety of services within London, including buses for private hire.

It says its services are “run autonomously” and “locally-branded” so that “the management teams are empowered to respond directly to the needs of the local communities they serve”.

Working in this way ensures we retain strong local expertise and can focus on the needs of customers and adapt quickly to changing conditions in local markets.

In March of this year, the company won a London Transport Award for its ‘Contribution for Sustainable Transport’.

But it’s had its troubles – and was hit quite a blow yesterday when it learned that it lost its West Midlands train services to another operator.

Go-Ahead said it was “disappointed” with the outcome, and said it had “delivered significant improvements across the entire network”, according to The Telegraph.

Meanwhile, one of its other train networks, the Southern network, has been struggling with an industrial dispute and strike action for the past year – a point that will worry potential drivers for the company’s new Dublin bus service.

Transport Minister Shane Ross told TheJournal.ie yesterday’s announcement will result in more competition in the market.

“It is only 10% so those that are worries about some sort of massive privatisation are wrong. That isn’t the intention at all. It is to improve the competition and the service to the consumer,” he said.

“All the jobs in Dublin Bus are perfectly secure, so the unions should be happy. There is no way any worker should feel threatened at all,” said Ross.

With additional reporting by Christina Finn 

Read: Dublin Bus has lost out on a tender for 10% of its own routes

Read: Do you use these buses in Dublin? A new operator on 10% of routes will be announced today

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