'If Bus Éireann is shut down, rural Ireland is banjaxed,' says driver
Bus Éireann driver Mark Fitzgerald believes Government policy caused the company's financial problems, so it should help to solve them.
Rural Ireland will be "banjaxed" if the company is allowed to shut down, he warned. Closing down bus routes hurts the people who live in remote areas, he said.
"This is the third cost-cutting plan by Bus Éireann in recent years," said the father-of-four who drives buses between Dungarvan, Waterford and Cork.
He also drives on the Dublin-Clonmel route, which is under threat of being axed.
"The cost cutting in 2009 resulted in lost routes, buses, and drivers. Then, three years ago, another plan meant staff had to give up terms and conditions, some overtime and expenses payments which cost me €100 a week for 18 months until they were restored," he said.
"There seems to be three different 'cures' at present. If Bus Éireann is shut down, rural Ireland is banjaxed. Or the company wants to survive by raiding the wage packages of its workers. Or thirdly, the Government subvents and supports its bus services," he said.
Mr Fitzgerald said in the past, Bus Éireann used the profits it made on busy routes between cities to subsidise its rural services, which are under pressure.
But the company lost much of its profits when the motorway system was built and private operators were allowed to operate lucrative intercity services on the motorways while Bus Éireann had to travel on the old routes serving the people of smaller towns, he said.
He feels the Department of Transport must become actively involved in the current efforts to solve the financial problems of the company because the Government policies caused the problems.
"I've been driving the buses since 2000 and I hoped to drive until I was 65. The company's solution is only a sticking plaster."