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The unsung heroes who kept the city moving in the storms

PUBLIC transport workers have been hailed for going beyond the call of duty during the Big Freeze.

Bus, train and Luas staff were praised for helping commuters get home in the Arctic conditions.

One Iarnrod Eireann train driver offered to drive an elderly couple from Armagh to Monaghan when it appeared they would be stranded.

Luas drivers got out of their trams to push cars, while Dublin Bus staff have managed to struggle into work in all types of conditions.

Paul Deere (31), from Carlow, was one of several Luas workers who helped push stuck cars out of the park and ride at the Red Cow.

"There is a little bit of an incline but we got them out, we gave people a push up," said Mr Deere, who is a team leader in the company's commercial department.

Dublin Bus' central control in the Broadstone Depot was crucial to keeping the service on the roads when the weather turned icy.



Checking

The control room was "hopping" last Wednesday and Thursday during the worst of the weather, said Mark Kelly, the Dublin Bus official who oversees the operation.

Information from around the city about road conditions, traffic delays and bus locations is gathered at the centre and used to keep the service running as efficiently as possible.

The new automatic vehicle location (AVL) system allows the controllers to see exactly the location of all buses.

John Jones, who has been with Dublin Bus for 37 years, was on the road early every day checking that surfaces were safe for buses.

"I was getting out of my bed at 3am and I was out on the road by 4am," said Mr Jones, who is from Cabra.

"We try to drive as many routes as we can to test the roads," he told the Herald. Despite his early start, he continued to work well into the evening, not finishing most days before 8pm.

Bus driver Tina Ahern (37), who lives in Cavan, felt a responsibility to her passengers on the No 37 route, many of whom she knows personally.

She did her best to ensure her elderly passengers were able to get home.

Catherine Darby (53), who works in the customer service section, agreed, saying: "There were so many calls from people saying how helpful drivers were."

Peter O'Grady, who works in the control room, said an awful lot of drivers "pushed the boat out" for the public.

"Monday was treacherous but they kept going," he said.

Mr Kelly also praised the company's maintenance crews who began work a couple of hours early.

A similar operation takes place across the yard of the Broadstone depot at Bus Eireann's central control room.

There, regional operations supervisor in the eastern area, Dominick Conlon, monitors bus movements across a wide area.

Mr Conlon gets up at 3.30am every day to be in work for shortly after 4am.

While on the way to work, he makes contact with gardai to check on the conditions in different parts of Leinster.

Bus drivers Jim Reilly, who lives in Cavan, and Michelle McClelland, from Finglas, have managed to keep the service going, but "with great difficulty" at times.

"The vehicles have big powerful engines but the traction on the roads has been a big problem. All you could do is take your time," Jim told the Herald.

Michelle said that Monday was one of the worst days, with a round trip from Letterkenny in Donegal taking nine hours.

"I had a bus full of passengers. I had to get to the airport and the city centre.

"They had flights to catch but they understood I was under a lot of pressure," she said.

Jim said it took him an hour and a half to get from Busaras to Heuston Station on one day.

Workers in Iarnrod Eireann personally ensured stranded passengers made it home by giving them lifts in their own cars.

Eddie Fitzpatrick (36), a father of two from Clonsilla, started work at 6am last Wednesday and did not finish until 10pm that night. The following day, he started at 6am and did not finish until 9pm.

"It was unbelievable. It was constant going for the whole day," said Eddie, who works out of Dublin's Connolly Station coordinating train services.

He pointed out "a huge team effort" went into keeping the trains running.

Hardworking train driver Paul Magee, a father of two, left his home on Wednesday and did not return until Saturday.



Hotel

Paul, who works on the Connolly to Rosslare line, knew if he did not turn up for work the train would not run.

"He stayed in a hotel because he needed to be near Connolly," the Iarnrod Eireann spokeswoman said.

hnews@herald.ie


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