Friday 22 November 2019

The last stop for public transport

NEW figures reveal that the number of passengers using the three CIE public transport entities -- Iarnrod Eireann, Dublin Bus and Bus Eireann -- fell last year by a whopping 25 million, or 11pc. Iarnrod Eireann blames the recession: "People just aren't travelling as much any more."

Undoubtedly true. And satisfyingly simple. But hardly a complete explanation; and it takes no account of the numerous acute problems that beset public transport in Ireland.

Again and again, radical solutions have been proposed. Fine Gael's transport spokesman, Fergus O'Dowd, wants fares cut to encourage demand. Privatisation, especially of Dublin Bus services, has been mooted again and again over many years. It has never reached the blueprint stage.

While we wait in vain for improvement, the Government has gone in the other direction.

Transport Minister Noel Dempsey has cut CIE funding by €27m, and 270 buses have been taken off the road. Opening of new stops will be postponed or abandoned. Passengers can expect to see new timetables, signalling reductions in services. All this would be more bearable if any prospect presented itself of long-term amelioration, but of that there seems to be little or no hope.

From time to time, great advances in public transport are promised. Few are delivered. From the lack of an integrated system in Dublin to the proposals to cut inadequate rural services further, we lag behind. Instead, we should have noted long ago, and copied, the spectacular successes of continental countries.

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