THE CEO of Bus Éireann has blamed a “lack of driver availability” for consistent cancellations on services to and from Wexford over the past couple of months. In the past month alone, over 40 services have been cancelled, many of them at the very last minute leaving people waiting at bus stops, unable to get to work or frantically searching for an alternative way to get themselves and their suitcases to the airport in time to catch a flight.
With his party colleagues councillors Tom Forde and Fionntán Ó Súilleabháin having raised the issue at local level, Sinn Féin TD Johnny Mythen was among those to have written to Bus Éireann CEO Stephen Kent to seek an explanation for the ongoing cancellations to vital services.
"We understand and very much regret the impact of cancellations on our customers,” Mr Kent said. “Regrettably, we have had particular challenges in Wexford in recent weeks. Most of the cancellations have arisen due to a lack of driver availability which resulted from illness and Covid-related absences and challenges in driver recruitment, in common with other transport operators.”
Mr Kent’s words will not ring true for people in Wexford at least, with private company Wexford Bus not suffering anywhere near the same level of cancellations as their state-owned counterparts.
"In terms of contingency,” he continued. “It has also become increasingly difficult to hire sub-contractors to support a service. Bus Éireann is actively recruiting for drivers in the south-east and throughout the country. In Cork and Limerick, we have started for the first time to train people with Category B driving licences to gain their Category D licence.”
Frustratingly for those left abandoned after cancellations, Mr Kent said: “In unfortunate cases where cancellations are unavoidable, in most cases, advance notice is available the day before. For people who have pre-booked their Expressway tickets, they are also notified by a direct email, typically well in advance of travel, allowing them to make alternative arrangements and transferring to other services operating either side of their intended departure.”
This has simply not been the experience of many. In one instance from recent weeks, notice of the cancellation of a service from Dublin Airport to Wexford was only published on social media six hours after the bus was due to depart. Another case saw a bus from Rosslare to Wexford cancelled on two minutes notice with people standing at the bus stop waiting.
Attempting to explain this, Mr Kent said: “Shorter notice cancellations can unfortunately arise where a driver is taken ill at short notice, or where the local team is seeking out solutions to allow the service to operate. I have confirmed that all pre-booked passengers on Expressway services cancelled from Wexford in recent weeks were notified directly by email at least six hours before the time of intended departure.”
Concluding, Mr Kent told Deputy Mythen: “We are making every effort to deliver reliable services in the south-east and I would be happy to stay in contact on this.”