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Friday 8 December 2023 Dublin: 9°C
Leah Farrell

Bus Éireann strike: National Transport Authority to 'step-in' on planned route closures

Bus Éireann is pressing ahead with cost-cutting measures. Unions have said they’ll strike in response.

Updated at 2:50pm

THE NATIONAL TRANSPORT Authority has announced plans to plug the gap in the services that Bus Éireann plans to scrap on its Expressway routes.

It said that, with the exception of the Westport to Athlone route, alternative public transport services in the form of private operators from the affected locations are “adequate to meet demand”.

Under Bus Éireann’s latest cost-cutting plans, the Clonmel-Dublin via Kilkenny would be scrapped, as would their services on the Derry – Dublin route. Services would also be reduced on the Galway – Dublin via Athlone, and the Limerick – Dublin via Nenagh and Portlaoise routes.

On the Westport – Athlone route, the NTA said that the “public service obligation of the route” meant that additional provisions would be put in place.

The NTA’s chief executive Anne Graham said: “When the prospect of reductions to Expressway services was raised recently, the NTA said that we would step in… Today , we are doing precisely that.”

In a statement, Siptu accused the NTA of facilitating the privatisation of bus services in Ireland.

Its sector organiser Willie Noone said: “On four of the five routes on which the management of Bus Éireann has selected to cut or severely curtail services the NTA states that it has already issued enough licences to cover their continuation by private operators.

This reveals a long-term plan to undermine public services for the benefit of private operators.

Independent TD for Roscommon – Galway, Michael Fitzmaurice, however, welcomed the NTA’s announcement, saying that the routes are a “lifeline for people in rural areas.”

The National Bus and Rail Union (NBRU) also issued a statement on the matter, with general secretary Dermot O’Leary saying that that they will not engage in discussions on route closures.

Earlier today, NBRU boss O’Leary singled out Transport Minister Shane Ross and his Independent Alliance for criticism, as workers at Bus Éireann prepare for all-out strike action next Monday.

“Standing idly-by”

O’Leary has accused Ross and his fellow TDs of “standing idly-by and allowing the decimation of a number of socially and economically vital bus services into rural Ireland”.

The NBRU and Siptu have announced they’ll start an all-out strike at the bus company from Monday.

It’s after management announced they would press ahead with cost-cutting measures from that day.

In a statement released yesterday afternoon, the company said the decision came as talks with unions at the Workplace Relations Committee had failed to find a breakthrough.

“These measures are vital to ensure that the company remains solvent, and can continue to trade as a going concern,” it said.

In response to that statement, the NBRU and Siptu both said they would be left with no option but to commence strike action if the company pressed ahead.

“It is frankly appalling that those elected to both protect and enhance vital public services should be left hide in the shadows, in the hope that the dispute between Bus Éireann and its staff will provide cover for their political cowardice,” O’Leary said in his statement criticising the Independent Alliance, issued last night.

“The NBRU has been out campaigning over the last three months alerting people to the fact that their vital bus service were under threat, we met with many politicians from all parties and none, and however those habitual Leinster House plinth dwellers were nowhere to be seen.”

The NBRU “will not be a party to any discussions on route closures,” he said.

Siptu said a letter to staff from management issued yesterday included “a threat to cut the three services connecting Dublin to Clonmel, Athlone and Westport.

It also states that the services between Dublin and Limerick and Dublin and Galway will be greatly reduced.

“Our members are amazed at the attitude displayed by this letter which completely discounts the views of the majority of elected representatives, the public and its workforce,” Siptu’s Willie Noone said.

The financial situation at the embattled company is such that it claims it is looking at an estimated operating loss of €9.4 million for last year. It says that losses for last month are already in excess of €1.5 million.

Minister Ross said yesterday he noted the statement issued by Bus Éireann “and the responses by the Trades Unions indicating their intention to strike”.

The Minister welcomes the Board’s willingness to undertake further discussions and again encourages the employer and employees to engage urgently in a constructive manner. This is necessary to resolve this difficult industrial relations situation, which threatens to greatly inconvenience the travelling public, especially those in rural Ireland.
In relation to the small number of route changes announced by the Company, the Minister is aware that the National Transport Authority is conducting a transport needs assessment in relation to affected areas and will ensure continued public transport connectivity.

Ross’s colleague John Halligan, a junior minister and TD for Waterford, said in a statement he strongly rejected claims by the NBRU that he had been absent from the Bus Éireann dispute.

“I have met SIPTU representatives in Waterford to discuss their concerns and I have also spoken at length to Dermot O’Leary on the issue. And I continue to make myself available to union reps,” Halligan said, in an emailed comment.

I completely reject the suggestion that I am ‘hiding in the shadows’ and I hope a resolution will be found to the issue soon.

Bus Éireann said as part of its statement yesterday that “further dialogue” aimed at resolving the funding impasse “would be welcome”.

With reporting from Sean Murray

Read ‘He was the definition of a gentleman’: Rural community in shock at killing of pensioner (90) >

Read ‘If you’re over the alcohol limit, you’re over the limit’: Ross wants more support for drink-driving law >

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