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Holding us to ransom is a thing of the past

BACK in the day, a strike at Bus Eireann would have paralysed the entire public transport system. Nowadays, if you to want to get say from Dublin to Galway you can drive on a spanking new motorway, take a private bus, or even get the train.

It is no coincidence that the roll out of the €14bn motorway network linking the capital with the main towns and cities coincided with a significant drop in CIE's passenger numbers.

The three companies that make up CIE – Bus Eireann, Iarnrod Eireann and Dublin Bus – have all been hit by falling passenger numbers.

Passenger numbers collapsed by 20pc over the three-year period 2009-2011, but stabilised last year. The downturn also clipped their wings.

With competitive costs on the motorway network, a growing number of public transport users are switching back to their cars because they can make the same journey as quickly.

Luxury

At the same time the private bus operators have got their act together – also offering luxury air-conditioned coaches equipped with wifi.

Once exorbitant bus fares have also fallen.

The cities and many towns are also linked to the capital with a much-improved rail service operated by Iarnrod Eireann, albeit with higher fares than Bus Eireann.

In fairness, the fact that Bus Eireann carries as many as 60,000 passengers every day, means that it still plays an extremely vital role in Irish public transport. This is especially the case in rural towns and villages.

Also, a strike would see hordes of tourists heading to the country left scratching their heads outside Busaras, Bus Eireann's landmark Dublin city-centre hub for the regions.

They will have to take the train – and pay more expensive fares – or find private coaches.

The very viability of Bus Eireann is now under threat. The subvention from the taxpayer is way down, it is losing passengers by the day, while the Government has no more money for another bailout.

Strike or no strike, the omens are not good for Bus Eireann.

Irish Independent