Sunday 23 October 2016

Financial penalties won't bring this sorry saga to an end

Published 13/05/2016 | 02:30

Luas in operation (Picture: Steve Humphreys)
Luas in operation (Picture: Steve Humphreys)

Anybody who believes the Luas strike will be called off in the near future because Transdev will run out of money is sorely mistaken.

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It's correct that the company is not being paid €100,000 a day because it is not operating the service, but it doesn't have to pay wages or operational costs so the penalty is somewhat less.

But there will need to be many more strike days before it really suffers. As part of its contract with the National Transport Authority (NTA), Transdev had to lodge a €10m bond to cover the NTA in the event it could not operate the service.

There's a long way to go before it reaches the point where that bond is called in. In the meantime, the 90,000 daily Luas users will be without a service.

The response from the State to this ongoing crisis has been dreadful. While no one is suggesting the Department of Transport or NTA get involved in negotiations, they could at least force both sides into a room and get them talking.

The NTA has also refused to discuss its powers to take control of the network, as allowed under the act which established the authority.

It is considered the operator of last resort if Transdev cannot provide the service.

Do 11 days of strike action already undertaken, with another nine planned for June, not constitute a loss of service? At what point does the NTA step in?

Unless there is negotiations between both sides, it's commuters who will bear the brunt.

The strike also raises questions about how the travelling public are treated, especially those who have already paid for services.

For many annual travel pass holders, the Luas only constitutes part of their daily commute,

If someone connects to the Luas from Connolly or Heuston Stations, they cannot complete their journey due to strike action.

In some cases, they will take an alternative form of transport at their own cost.

They will not be compensated for this.

While workers and the company continue to lose money - and, incidentally, the NTA due to the loss of fare revenue - the travelling public suffers most.

This has gone on long enough. It's time for both sides to talk.

Irish Independent

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