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Bus stop December 13, 2016

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
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A depressing report in the SBP by Fearghal O’Connor at the weekend suggesting that Bus Éireann unions would accept route closures in order to sustain certain employment rights. I can’t actually blame workers for that particular compact – it’s difficult to hold the line when facing those who give not a toss about such matters. But the broader issues remain extant. The idea is that at least 7 routes would close – Expressway routes from Dublin to Galway, Limerick, Cork and Waterford. This would also see job losses – perhaps 150 in all. Union reps are quoted as saying they ‘recognise that some routes currently operated may be problematic’. But what is the central problem?

Well the SBP notes that:

NBRU general secretary Dermot O’Leary has said that reported losses of €1.16m suffered by Dublin Coach, a private operator that regularly has lower prices than BÉ on a number of the impacted routes were an indication that too many licenses had been granted on some interurban routes’.

And surely that points to the bizarreness of a situation where a state company is seeing itself whittled away by the state offering private operators the right to compete?

And tellingly BÉ itself through a spokeswoman notes that ‘new licenses and license amendments are having an impact on the financial performance’. How this makes sense escapes me.

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1. LeftAtTheCross - December 13, 2016

“at least 7 routes would close – Expressway routes from Dublin to Galway, Limerick, Cork and Waterford.”

I haven’t been following this story but one might have expected that the routes between the capital and the other four largest cities in the state might have actually been the busiest routes and therefore have a high seat occupancy rate and thus be reasonably profitable?

Has there been any analysis into the economics of those routes?

Or are they being closed precisely because they are the most profitable, therefore removing state competition and providing a cash cow for private operators?

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EWI - December 13, 2016

Or are they being closed precisely because they are the most profitable, therefore removing state competition and providing a cash cow for private operators?

Hobble BÉ on its’ profitable routes by permitting private operators to cherrypick, then use the inevitable outcome to further reduce the overall service. Very, very difficult not to think that you’re right and that this is the intended result.

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sonofstan - December 13, 2016

They already are such a cash cow. Non stop fares from either operate at €8-10 via Aircoach and other operators

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deiseach - December 13, 2016

Yeah, Rapid Express provide an excellent service between Dublin Airport and Waterford. Just over 2.5 hours, and that includes heading into Dublin city centre. And these aren’t boneshaker coaches. They’re plush enough and with wi-fi to boot. Bus Éireann is always going to struggle to compete.

And yet . . . I recently found myself needing to get home from Dublin at around 10.30pm. No Rapid Express at that time. Imagine my relief to find Bus Éireann operated at that time, and there was even a later service. Now that’s a public service. The idea that that might be worth protecting seems to be too ridiculous to even mention.

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2. Villan - December 13, 2016

Hate to come down on the side of private operators here, particularly the loathsome First Group who own Aircoach, but BE really dropped the ball on their interurban routes during the bubble era, in particular the one I’m most familiar with; Cork – Dublin.

Prior to the NTA assuming control of route licensing, BE had ample opportunity to develop timetables on Cork – Dublin to reflect modern life.

They didn’t, even during the bubble era when the motorways were opening up they stuck to an archaic timetable. BE’s timetable was little changed, every two hours, last bus to Cork/Dublin at 6 or 8pm and stopping everywhere.

Aircoach came in, near 24hr service in both directions, all express services and cheaper to boot.

BE eventually fought back with their GOBE partnership, but too little too late. If management had any bit of foresight 10+ years ago when the motorway programme was coming to fruition, then the likes of Aircoach, Dublin Coach and City Link would never have had the opportunity.

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3. An Cathaoirleach - December 15, 2016

Much of the Public Transport issue relates to funding. A particular problem relates to the issuance of free passes by Dept. of Social Protection and the very nominal payment made for them.

There are approx. 840,000 public transport passes, for which DSP pays just €89 annually for each of them. The annual cost of purchase would be in excess of €6,400 each. The method of calculating the payment due has not changed since 1973.

If DSP are to pay a reasonable rate, let us say €1,000 for each pass, this will require a substantial increase in employee SI contributions, around 2%. (RTÉ is also short-changed on the TV licence, but by a much smaller amount).

The question arises whether workers are willing to pay more to fund the passes, or whether they should be ended. The current position where regular users subsidise the free passes cannot continue. The passes are part of the “household package” and as such should be properly funded by DSP, through increasing contributions.

As an occasional user of the scheduled services run by Matthews and have to concur with Villan’s point. They have opened up the the Dundalk-Drogheda- Dublin run with excellent services, leaving Bus Éireann scrambling. .

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RosencrantzisDead - December 15, 2016

Agree with a lot of this, but I think the increase In SI contributions would be more appropriately placed on the employer side. Employer PRSI contributions are pretty low when compared with our EU peers. It is not really a case of asking the average irish citizen if he wants less wage in exchange for allowing his grandmother a free bus journey.

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An Cathaoirleach - December 15, 2016

I take your point about SI. However in most countries where there are higher percentage contributions, there is also a ceiling. There is no ceiling in Ireland.

The employee contribution is also incredibly low, compared to most European States. For example, the Polish employee rate is 13.71% (2015). Average employer rate is 18.06% (2015).

The rights to a pass mainly flow from the receipt of a SW payment. I would suggest that most people paying PRSI will also enjoy the pass at some stage.

There used to be a localised RATP levy as part of the French Social Insurance system on wages and salaries in the Paris region. Perhaps a local Dublin levy might be appropriate too?

Discuss!

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6to5against - December 15, 2016

6400 would be enough to keep me in commuter tickets for 12 months of the year. I really doubt that many of those utilising free transport are daily commuters. Where did you get the figure?

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An Cathaoirleach - December 15, 2016

Annual cost of a National all service ticket for 2017 is €6,530 https://www.taxsaver.ie/Ticket-Types/Annual-Tickets/CIE-All-Services-Irish-Rail-Dublin-Bus–Bus-Eireann/. s

This is in effect the same as the SW Pass, other than the pass covers other licensed services, include the two tram lines in Dublin.

Many pensioners do use the service heavily. Have a look at the amount of hotel offers in those places serviced by train aimed at pensioners!

The numbers using passes on Dublin Bus services at all times of the day, still astounds me, particularly since the late Seamus Brennan allowed them to be used at peak times, with no additional payment!

The number of passes is estimated for the current year looking at the numbers in DSP’s annual statistical reports.

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6to5against - December 15, 2016

A few pensioners taking a mid-week break in Westport hardly qualifies as the sort of use that would justify a 6400 value being put on the pass.

6400 amounts to over 530 a month. A monthly Dublin rail ticket is under 200. A monthly Dublin-Belfast ticket is less than 500. You could travel round trip from Cork to Belfast 10 times a month, without seeking any discount or using a monthly ticket, for less than than 6400 a year,

The fact that there is a commercial product available that might cost 6400 is meaningless. It is the sort of false comparator much loved of media commentators and economist/lobbyists driving their clients agenda. The truth is that no operator is carrying a cost anywhere near that amount when they accept the pass, and no passenger is gaining anything like that in value.

But it would be good to see a rise in social insurance payments, particularly on the employers side – which are effectively the lowest in Europe.

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CMK - December 15, 2016

Matthews run a good service but they operate a ‘lean’ model. All their buses are on short term lease and the bus drivers for Matthews are paid very substantially less than their counterparts in Bus Eireann.

Also, good luck if you live just outside Drogheda/Dundalk etc and work anywhere outside of the City Centre of Dublin; Matthews will be of no use to you. Bus Eireann, however, will. And that’s the point, I suppose, the commercial companies will cherry picket the high-volume lucrative routes and take the most direct route possible from A to B, probably via motorway. They’ll win hands down everytime.

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An Cathaoirleach - December 15, 2016

I accept your points in relation to Matthews. What struck me about them was their flexibility. But yes, they are very much a point to point model with a minimum number of stops, particularly the third level services, which Bus Éireann should have provided and could have done so profitably and fulfilled their statutory mandate.

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4. Logan - December 15, 2016

The thing about the pensioners also has to take into account the “alternative” if there was no pass.
I have a recently retired relative that frequently travels to Dublin. He used to go up a lot before he got his pass too, but he always drove up in the car. Before he was retired he may have stepped on public transport once a year.
Since he got his pass, though, he has gotten into the habit of taking the train. But it was a bit of a change for him – if it wasn’t the fact that his travel pass was free, he might not have bothered, and might still be driving up. So the extra income Irish Rail and BE would have got out of him if there was no pass was probably barely above zero.
So it is not a simple equation. Whereas in Dublin, there are probably plenty of people who would be on the bus and DART just as much even if they had to pay, so the equation would be different there. Every trip is a loss for Dublin Bus or Iearnrod Eireann.

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5. Logan - December 15, 2016

Also, what one finds with the private buses is that they seem to be nearly all either “commuter” or “expressway” (at least with regard to the midlands anyway)
Several buses up to Dublin between 7 and 9 in the morning from smaller towns, and back in the evening.
And loads of buses from Dublin city centre or airport to Galway city centre or Limerick city centre. But virtually nothing to the smaller towns from between 9 and 3, and simply skipping the small towns altogether in many cases.
If you want to get from Dublin airport to Galway City, the private buses are fine, but if you are going to Edenderry or Birr instead….well, its back to good old BE with you!
No private firm seems interested.
Just look at the Citylink Dublin to Galway route, for example – there are eighteen buses a day from Dublin Airport to Galway, but only 7 of them stop at Moate, and the last one leaves that serves Moate leaves Dublin at 8pm. Four later buses leave, but none of them stop at Moate.
Whereas as with BE, there are 17 buses on the competing route, with 9 of them servicing Moate as well, so over 50 %
And SIGNIFICANTLY, the last bus is not an Expresway, so unusual or awkward transport needs are more catered for. If you book with BE rather than Citylink, and you flight arrival is delayed, you at least wont have the experience of going out to the coach park, and finding that there are several more buses going your way that night, but none of them stop in your town…

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6. Tomboktu - December 16, 2016

Mind you, try getting to the Irish Seed Savers in Scarriff, Co Clare, on a Saturday using public transport, BÉ or otherwise…

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