Thursday 23 November 2017

GAA fans face travel chaos as strike begins at dawn

Rail staff walkout over pay cuts could cost Dublin businesses €25m

EARLY START: Francis O'Connor snr and jnr of Pallas, Listowel, travelled early and support the strikers. Photo: Tony Gavin
EARLY START: Francis O'Connor snr and jnr of Pallas, Listowel, travelled early and support the strikers. Photo: Tony Gavin
Wayne O'Connor

Wayne O'Connor

Two days of travel misery began at dawn today as Irish Rail workers walked out over proposed pay cuts.

Strike action by staff today and tomorrow will mark two of five planned strikes that together will cost the loss-making rail operator at least €3.1m in lost ticket sales and government funding.

Irish Rail will lose €1.3m in revenues on what should have been a bumper weekend.

No rail service apart from the Luas in Dublin will run due to the industrial action in a row over pay cuts.

Further strikes are planned for 7 and 21 September.

Tourism Minister Michael Ring yesterday criticised the strike action.

Dublin businesses say they could lose up to €25m because of the strike.

The action today will disrupt travel plans for GAA supporters in Kerry and Mayo as their sides clash in the All-Ireland semi-final at Croke Park.

Some 20,000 fans were expected to travel by rail - many on the lucrative "match day" specials which are an important revenue stream for the rail company.

In all, 180,000 rail travellers - including tens of thousands of commuters going to work tomorrow - will have to make contingency plans.

The GAA is advising fans travelling to the football semi-final to allow more time for their journeys and to consider using other public transport services.

At least 60 buses are expected to arrive in the capital from Kerry today, while an "unprecedented" number of private coaches are expected to arrive from Mayo.

Mayo GAA PRO Aiden McLoughlin said that this could pose huge issues.

"The biggest problem is that people are wondering what time they will have to leave home - because the road is going to be severely busy all the way to Dublin. A lot of buses on the road are going to slow things down.

"That has the potential to clog the whole thing up if people are leaving at the same time," he said.

Mayo supporters Barry Brennan and Deirdre Ni Dhomhnaill travelled up to Dublin for the match yesterday to avoid the traffic chaos.

"We'll have to arrange to get a lift back after the match because we cannot get a train," said Deirdre.

They decided to "make a weekend of it" by travelling a day before the match - but Barry admitted it will add to their expense.

"The accommodation was €120 and the single tickets for the train cost €15 each so it is a more expensive weekend."

Kerry fan Francis O'Callaghan made the journey from his home in Pallas, Lixnaw, yesterday with his son Francis Jnr - but was sympathetic to the strikers.

"I changed my plans on account of the strike but I don't disagree with it because the workers need to be looked after," said Francis Snr.

"I have a lift home organised for tomorrow," he added.

A GAA spokesperson said: "To facilitate the early arrival of supporters, the turnstiles will open 30 minutes earlier at 12pm. All private coaches are asked to approach Croke Park via the M50 to the Port Tunnel and East Wall Road. Mountjoy Square will not be available to coaches."

Junior Minister for Sport and Tourism Michael Ring said the strikes will impact on tourists visiting Ireland in the middle of the summer season.

"People come to this country and expect the train to be available and expect to be able to travel up and down the country. People have been very badly inconvenienced," said the minister.

Further strike action is due to take place on three days in September as staff target people travelling for the GAA hurling and football finals.

Staff are angry that Irish Rail plan to impose temporary pay cuts of up to 6.1pc.

The cuts are said to be necessary by the company, which made losses of €16.4m last year. Despite passenger numbers being up by 2.7pc in 2014 the Labour Court found that payroll savings were 
"unavoidable if the future of the company and the employment that it maintains is to be protected."

Sunday Independent

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