Sunday 22 September 2019

Bus and rail fines cripple services under Ross tenure

Transport companies hit with €3.8m in penalties over two years

Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Shane Ross Picture: Steve Humphreys
Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Shane Ross Picture: Steve Humphreys
Philip Ryan

Philip Ryan

Financial penalties imposed on public transport companies that shut down services due to industrial action have more than doubled since Minister for Transport Shane Ross took office.

Mr Ross's tenure has been blighted by bus and rail strikes which have brought the country to a standstill and caused huge anger among stranded members of the public.

And now new figures show for the first time the financial impact the widespread industrial action is having on public transport companies forced to close services due to workers downing tools.

The fines are having a huge impact on transport companies struggling to provide services.

The total cost of fines imposed on the country's three public transport companies - Irish Rail, Bus Eireann and Dublin Bus - since Mr Ross took office is €3,844,226.

The entire cost of fines imposed by the National Transport Authority (NTA) during the previous three years was only €1,768,372.

This year alone, Bus Eireann has been forced to pay €2,342,133 due to a lack of services caused by industrial action.

In the same period, fines imposed on Dublin Bus totalled almost €1.2m.

All public transport companies are fined by the NTA for failing to provide services during strikes, while also losing out on revenue generated from fares. Fianna Fail TD James Lawless, who obtained the figures from the NTA, said Mr Ross's failure to take control of the industrial action crisis was having a crippling financial impact on public transport companies.

"His lack of action has cost these companies over €3.8m in penalties since he took office," Mr Lawless said.

"This does not even include the loss of fare revenue that has occurred during the industrial unrest in these companies and the long-term damage to their business model as customers explore other transport options which they may stick with afterwards. It's a disgrace that this is allowed to continue.

"When this will stop is anybody's guess; will it be €5m or €10m in fines before action is taken? This simply cannot continue and I urge the minister to wake up and do his job," he added.

Mr Ross has refused to become involved in any rail or bus pay dispute and instead has urged unions to use the industrial relations mechanisms available to workers.

The recent threat of Irish Rail train strikes in the run-up to Christmas was averted when a recommendation was made by the Labour Court.

Under the terms of the recommendation, workers will get a 2.5pc pay increase each year for three years, starting on December 1. They will also receive a one-off €500 bonus.

Most unions are urging members to accept the deal. However, the payout is likely to lead to further pay demands from other public transport company workers.

The Department of Transport did not respond to requests for a comment.

Sunday Independent

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