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Sunday 18 March 2018

Leo wades into row over bus strike as Ross dithers

Former Transport Minister Leo Varadkar has waded into the ongoing row at Dublin Bus. Pic Tom Burke
Former Transport Minister Leo Varadkar has waded into the ongoing row at Dublin Bus. Pic Tom Burke
Luke Byrne

Luke Byrne

Former Transport Minister Leo Varadkar has waded into the ongoing row at Dublin Bus, by defending his decision to open bus routes to private tender.

Mr Varadkar's input comes after the National Bus and Railway Workers' Union (NBRU) issued leaflets for commuters ahead of planned strikes, criticising recent Fine Gael and Government policy. His response stands in stark contrast to the inaction of current Transport Minister Shane Ross.

Mr Ross, who said last weekend that the transport portfolio was "a doddle compared to sport", has since refused to make any comment on the looming strikes and travel mayhem that will grip the capital.

The NBRU leaflet claimed that, without Government funding, "Dublin would end up being a wasteland populated by profiteers taking huge amounts of taxpayers' money" and higher bus fares.

The leaflet, aimed at garnering support for staff seeking a 15pc pay increase, said Fine Gael had "put 10pc of Dublin Bus up for privatisation".

Mr Varadkar, who became Social Protection Minister in May, was in charge of the transport portfolio when that decision to tender for certain routes was made.

He has defended the move, referring to Aer Lingus and Ryanair to make his point.

"Competition is good for passengers and good for taxpayers. Ryanair competing with Aer Lingus transformed aviation and made it affordable for so many more people to travel to and from Ireland.

"Luas is run by a private company, provides an excellent service and requires no subsidies from the taxpayer," he said in a statement to the Irish Independent.

"Why should buses be any different? At the very least, it's worth a try to see if private bus operators can provide a better service. They deserve a chance to show us what they can do," he added.

Meanwhile, there's no relief in sight for the around 400,000 regular Dublin Bus commuters.

Luas operator Transdev confirmed no extra trams were available to cover demand during the strikes tomorrow and Friday and Irish Rail has also confirmed it was working to capacity and could not expand its service.

Calls by AA Roadwatch for private motorists to be allowed to drive in bus lanes during the strikes have been rejected by the National Transport Authority (NTA).

Commuters have been urged to leave extra time for travel and to car-pool as much as possible.

And motorists have been warned to be aware of extra pedestrians and cyclists on the roads, some of whom may not have ridden a bike in a long time.

The expected traffic black spots have been identified as routes into the city centre from suburban areas with no access to Luas or Dart services, including the N11 and Swords Road.

Irish Independent

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