Sunday 19 January 2020

€2,300 a month cost of ferrying staff on 'decentralisation bus' Castle

Workers driven to and from Trim each day from Dublin

Michael Brennan

A "decentralisation bus" is ferrying government workers to their new headquarters in Co Meath at a cost of more than €2,000 a month.

Around 16 staff previously based in the Office of Public Works' (OPW) office in St Stephen's Green are picked up at 8am at Dublin Castle every morning and taken by bus on the hour-long journey to work in Trim.

Then, at 5pm, they are taken back to Dublin at the end of their working day.

The bus has been highlighted by the opposition as a symbol of the shortcomings of the Government's decentralisation project.

The OPW was forced to introduce the bus service because of the lack of staff interest in moving out of Dublin. The bus costs the OPW €575 a week to operate -- or €2,300 a month.

The OPW said it was running the service for a trial period "in the absence of a suitable public transport option between Dublin and Trim".

"This bus service is not a permanent arrangement and the OPW is continuing to examine alternative transport options, with Bus Eireann among others," it said.

The bus itself is owned by the OPW. It is used at weekends for guided tours in the Phoenix Park, bringing tourists from the Phoenix Park Visitor Centre to Aras an Uachtarain, the residence of President Mary McAleese.


"The driver is an existing OPW employee so no recruitment costs arise," the OPW spokeswoman said.

The bus also does an afternoon run between Dublin and Trim, leaving at 3.15pm and arriving in Trim at 4.15pm.

Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny has described it as a symptom of the bad planning in relation to decentralisation.

"At a time when we are all talking about environmental savings, is the Taoiseach happy that a bus leaves Dublin Castle every morning to go up and down to Trim?" he asked in the Dail earlier in the month.

Mr Kenny also highlighted the fact that the OPW's office in St Stephen's Green has not yet been vacated because a large number of staff, including four of the six principal architects, do not want to relocate to the new €37.5m OPW headquarters in Trim.

The OPW said the bus was saving the organisation money that would otherwise have had to be paid to staff that had to travel to its headquarters in Co Meath.

It said it was also saving costs on courier firms, because equipment, files and documents could be also carried on the bus between the department's offices in Dublin and Trim.

The bus is also used to transport OPW staff from Dublin to provide "advice and support" to Transport Minister Noel Dempsey, who is based in his home town of Trim when the Dail is not in session, the OPW said.

Mr Dempsey officially opened the OPW's new headquarters there last April, saying the decentralisation programme would bring "long-term dividends for the whole country including the public servants and their families".

The State has spent €331m on acquiring and renting property to implement its plan of moving 10,000 Dublin-based civil servants to locations around the country.

However, just 3,100 people have moved out so far, and the final number will reach only 4,000 because the rest of the decentralisation projects have been put on hold.

Irish Independent

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