Tourists enjoy an easy ride on comfy commuter buses
Tourists sightseeing around Dublin are enjoying the cream of the new Dublin Bus fleet -- with the roofs chopped off so that they can get a better view of the city.
The buses were funded from the National Development Plan and are now catering for the lucrative tourist market, while ordinary commuters still have to put up with 13-year-old double-deckers without wheelchair facilities.
The buses now packed with foreign tourists began service on various suburban routes around eight years ago and were a welcome addition to the fleet for the disabled, mums with buggies and others. But Dublin Bus -- Bus Atha Cliath -- chopped the roofs off some of the newer Volvo AV low-floor vehicles and removed the original National Development Plan logos before re-branding them.
Displaying a bright new livery, the buses are being used on the lucrative sightseeing business where tourists pay around €14 to see the attractions from an open-top, double-decker.
At the same time, on Dublin Bus routes to Terenure, Swords and other suburbs, there are still a large number of non-wheelchair friendly buses that date back to 1995.
Now a private tour operator who has borrowed heavily from the banks to fund his Dublin sightseeing business has complained to the Minister for Transport about what he calls unfair use of National Development Plan money.
Dave McConn of the Dualway Group, which operates the Grayline and City Sightseeing franchises, said his company pays €250,000 for each new bus plus another €20,000 to install state-of-the-art, multi-lingual guide systems.
"We have to earn or borrow every penny we spend on new buses and have recently purchased 04, 05, 06 and 07 buses to go on our routes. But Dublin Bus is using taxpayers money from the National Development Plan to put newer buses in direct competition with us. At the same time they still have aged buses with poor access on routes used by ordinary people every day," he said.
In a statement Dublin Bus said they are committed to providing accessible services for all customers.
"Currently 70 per cent of the Dublin Bus fleet is accessible and with our fleet replacement programme the entire Dublin Bus fleet will be wheelchair accessible by 2012. This applies to all services including commercial services such as the sightseeing tours service," a spokeswoman said.
She said that sightseeing tours are a commercial service which has been operated by Dublin Bus since 1989 and that they are not in receipt of any subvention or State capital funding for this service.
"Buses for the sightseeing tours are modified using older double-deck buses from the Dublin Bus fleet. Commercial services which include the sightseeing tours are reported separately in the statutory annual accounts," she added.