Protest fears scupper plan to put on extra buses during Luas strikes
A plan for extra buses during the highly disruptive campaign of Luas strikes is being scuppered because authorities fear protests at depots.
Sources revealed that Transdev's experience when it tried to put on buses on St Patrick's Day has frightened off those considering extra services.
When Transdev threatened to hire buses to transport passengers to the city centre from park-and-ride facilities on the outskirts of Dublin, the National Bus and Railworkers' Union accused it of hiring 'scab labour'.
"There is a fear that things could get ugly," said a source. "The authorities do not want passengers involved in that situation."
The new transport minister and the National Transport Authority (NTA) have said they cannot put on extra services for Luas passengers who have endured 11 strikes and face another nine. A spokesman for Transport Minister Shane Ross said he was not going to intervene, as the dispute was a "matter for the private company".
The NTA said putting on extra services was not feasible. It cited the lack of availability of vehicles, the smaller capacity of buses, and the fact that extra buses would increase traffic congestion.
"When we looked at the practicalities, we couldn't get it to work at all in terms of expectations," said a spokeswoman. "A Luas carries 250 to 300 people, while a bus carries 80 to 85, and you would need a lot of them. Even if you could magic up the buses, they could end up stuck in traffic."
The Irish Independent has learned that the NTA has powers under the Dublin Transport Authority Act to become the "operator of last resort".
This provision can be applied if the operator, in this case Transdev, is unable to meet its contractual commitments, withdraws from providing or "fails to provide" services as set out in the contract or if it "fails on a persistent and sustained basis" to meet performance standards as set out in the contract.
However, the NTA spokeswoman said that there were no plans to invoke the clause.
Passengers suffered an 11th day of strikes yesterday and there will be another 24-hour stoppage next Friday, with more later in the month and in June.
Drivers want a 23pc pay rise by 2019, but Transdev is offering 13pc. Their colleagues - ticket inspectors, ticket inspector supervisors, and control room staff - have accepted the 13pc offer.
Transdev has warned the drivers that their colleagues are at risk if they continue their campaign of industrial action.