With Bus Eireann in financial meltdown, Cormac Murphy investigates the wider impact it could have on its competition and customers.
Bus Eireann’s failure to economise in recent years has cost the company dearly. Figures released by its parent company CIE reveal the dire state of affairs the bus service now finds itself in.
Losses of €5.6 million were estimated for 2015, €6 million for 2016 and as for 2017, Bus Eireann’s operations are already projected to have lost in excess of €1.5 million for January alone.
In an attempt to prevent the further decline of the company, management have plans to make cutbacks of over €12 million.
According to the Irish Independent, 120 managerial, maintenance and inspector jobs are among those set to go, with the number of driver layoffs still unclear. It is believed that up to 516 jobs could be lost out of a total of 2,500 full time staff.
Talks between the independent statutory body (the Workplace Relations Commission), Bus Eireann management and unions representing Bus Eireann workers had been ongoing to prevent an all-out, indefinite strike.
However these talks have failed to result in an agreement and an all-out strike is set for Monday, March 6.
In a move that could cause further disruption to nationwide services, Dublin Bus and Irish Rail workers are threatening to go on strike in support of their colleagues.
SIPTU transport sector organiser Willie Noone said, “The representatives of our members in Irish Rail and Dublin Bus have indicated that they are willing to take whatever appropriate actions necessary to support their colleagues in Bus Eireann.”
Minister for Transport Shane Ross issued a statement saying he is “very aware of the understandable concerns that are arising in rural Ireland following speculative comments about Bus Eireann”.
Save Our Bus Service (S.O.B.S) is an initiative set up rural communities who feel the planned modernisation of Bus Eireann is another attack on rural Ireland, which is already grappling with maintaining services such as post offices and garda stations.
Bus Éireann has already confirmed it will get rid of services between Dublin and Clonmel, Athlone and Westport and Dublin and Derry to make immediate savings of €1.1m as it faces insolvency.
On Twitter, National Bus and Rail Union (NBRU) General Secretary Dermot O’Leary criticised reports of Bus Eireann’s demise.
With industrial action looming, it is not all doom and gloom. The prevalence of private sector bus companies means that there will be less stranded customers unable to travel. It also provides an opportunity for the companies themselves to capitalise on the situation.
Speaking on Morning Ireland James McGinley, of McGinley coach travel which serves the Ulster region said Bus Eireann “haven’t made the changes necessary to keep up.”
When quizzed about plans to extend their routes in the wake of a Bus Eireann withdrawal, the profit orientated nature of private business became apparent. James McGinley insisted “we’ll have to look at the numbers” and he added that his company will only expand their routes if there was “a demand for it”.
Other examples of private bus companies that operate throughout the country include Citylink – which serves parts of Connacht, Dublin Coach and Wexford Bus.
The real concern with a scale back of Bus Eireann is the impact it will have on residents of areas not regularly served by private bus companies.
Margaret, a resident of Arklow and one of the many thousands that could be effected by a potential Bus Eireann strike or insolvency said “I don’t have a car, so the bus is the only way we have of getting to Dublin. All my check-ups and appointments are in St.Luke’s Hospital.”
“My husband will be really stuck, he has to go to St. James for his pacemaker and has to go to the [Royal Victoria] Eye and Ear hospital due to partial deafness,” she added
She commented that Bus Eireann is “unreliable” in regards to time and criticised its inefficiency. She also pointed out that the company has four bus stops in her town when one would suffice, calling it “unnecessary and a waste of time” but stated Bus Eireann “is all we have.”
Bus Eireann’s fate remains unclear. Will it remain buoyant or bus it to bankruptcy and most importantly, where does all this uncertainty leave its customers? Regardless of the final outcome, it is clear that many thousands will be affected – either by pay-cuts, a downscaling of services or strike action .