Bus Éireann dispute based on false business premise

Bus EireannWhy do we expect Bus Éireann to be a commercial entity?

After all, we don’t expect the fire brigade to generate a profit.

We don’t require our national police force to make money.

We don’t insist on the Coast Guard recording a handsome return year after year.


Because these are public services and we all agree that they exist for the common good, for the benefit of our society.

Why, then, would public transport be any different? Why are we talking about Bus Éireann, the company in danger of insolvency, instead of Bus Éireann, the grossly mismanaged public service?

And why do we focus on striking staff instead of looking closely at the antediluvian management practices that keep Bus Éireann and CIÉ as a whole, locked in the 1940s?

Yes, Bus Éireann is dysfunctional, and not just Bus Éireann but the entire CIÉ family. Anyone who has shivered at a November bus-stop knows about its casual disregard for timetables. Anyone who has raged on discovering that the bus left early understands the contempt some Bus Éireann staff have for the customers who pay their wages. Anyone who has been baffled by the fact that there’s only one way on and one way off a Dublin bus can see immediately that something fishy is at work here.

Why, almost uniquely in Europe, is it not possible to board an Irish bus without negotiating with the driver? Why are there no card-reading machines on our buses? Why can’t we board via a second door?

It’s insane, just as it’s insane that Bus Éireann’s customers, in an age of satellites, geo-tracking and downloadable apps can’t track the location of their next bus and find out at the flick of a phone how long they’ll have to wait.


Why is this?

Explain please.

One plausible explanation is that the old CIÉ attitudes pervade everything that happens in Bus Éireann.

It’s true that the drivers are militant and it’s true that their unions have always dominated the company and impeded every initiative tending to increase efficiency. But on the other hand, what is to be gained by management actively creating a crisis by presenting the workers with an ultimatum, based on a spurious premise? The company is not and will never be permitted to become insolvent. This is a State-owned company and it will not go broke, nor should it.

If the State could bail out banks that engaged in highly dubious activities, endangering the very foundations of our democracy, why would it not bail out a company that provides a public service to those who require it? Furthermore, if our commitment to the environment is to be credible, should we not be doing all in our power to offer an alternative to the private car?

It’s all nonsense.

Bus Éireann workers are on a cushy number and we can’t deny it. They’re well paid, but the answer is not to crush them. The answer is to mould an efficient transport system using the best logistical techniques available. If that means trampling on some cherished, established practices, well and good, but let’s not demonise the workers or the unions, even if those same unions treated the public with contempt by calling a lightning strike.

And let’s not allow Bus Éireann management to hold a gun to the heads of their employees when they themselves would not withstand professional scrutiny if subjected to examination by an external agency.

Finally, let us consider again our attitude to public transport.

Why does everything have to be subject to market forces? After all, it isn’t so long since those same forces threatened to destroy our country.

8 thoughts on “Bus Éireann dispute based on false business premise

  1. Ross has a neo-liberal agenda that is being happily endorsed by the government. The drivers do themselves no favours, though.

  2. You can get real time updates about bus times via an App called Real Time Ireland. Very handy. I think 7 people know about it.

  3. Is was not designed by anyone with design experience, and it must interface with whatever functionality Bus Eireann services expose and setting up your preferred routes is difficult….. but the real time info is accurate.

    So the info is there, they just couldn’t be arsed making it user friendly.

  4. It seems daft getting on and off the bus through the same door.I thought all city buses had entry and exit doors.All London buses have been cashless since mid 2014.Even an old wan like me has an app that tells me when the bus is due.Is it the management or the drivers who are stopping improvements to the service.

  5. I agree that the drivers do themselves no favours by bissing off the travelling public. I suspect their agenda is to crash the company, take the redundancy money and pension, and go drive the very private buses they are griping about.
    I sympathise with the company directors, who are bound by law not to trade while insolvent. Insolvency is defines as the company not being able to pay its debts as they fall due – if that point is reached, the directors will have no choice but to cease trading, or risk the wrath of the High Court, and the personal liability that follows.
    Where I think a major wrong lies is in the “free” transport. Nothing is free, not tv licences, not health care, not legal aid and not travel. Concessionary travel for senior citizens, students and other groups is a good idea, but the cost should be charged to where it belongs, and it should have anti-abuse measures. Concessionary travel for senior citizens should be paid for in full by the Department of Social and Family Affairs. As you say, Bock, in these days of electronic card readers etc it should not be difficult to log the real cost of these concessions. Similarly, student travel should be a charge on the Department of Education. There is no logical reason why Bus Eireann should have to absorb the cost of social welfare or education, health and whatever else. That is a fundamental unfairness in the way the company is set up, and I sympathise fully on that ground.

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