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The Privatisation Agenda of Bus Connects Will Lead To Bus Disconnects

category national | worker & community struggles and protests | opinion/analysis author Friday September 21, 2018 23:05author by 1 of indy Report this post to the editors

The new scheme to improve the Dublin Bus network called Bus Connects on close inspection is nothing of the sort. It is more akin to Bus Disconnects. The reports and PR from Bus Connects maintains it will be better and while the theoretical basis for it may be correct, it doesn't deliver because they plan to do it with the same number of buses. For some routes there will be a reduction in capacity by 25%. For example they claim a bus every 4 minutes on the main backbone A-Route but this figure is misleading because it is for the 4 A-routes. Since you are only likely to be on one of these, then that means the real peak frequency is every 15 or so minutes which is no different to the present.

The new scheme to improve the Dublin Bus network called Bus Connects on close inspection is nothing of the sort. It is more akin to Bus Disconnects. The reports and PR from Bus Connects maintains it will be better and while the theoretical basis for it may be correct, it doesn't deliver because they plan to do it with the same number of buses. For some routes there will be a reduction in capacity by 25%. For example they claim a bus every 4 minutes on the main backbone A-Route but this figure is misleading because it is for the 4 A-routes. Since you are only likely to be on one of these, then that means the real peak frequency is every 15 or so minutes which is no different to the present.

According to the National Bus and Rail Union (NBRU) for many people in the outer suburbs who now can get one bus into the city centre, they will have to get two separate buses. Whilst Bus Connects say you won't have to buy a new ticket for the 2nd bus and are proposing a 90-minute timeframe on a ticket, you can be sure the tickets will be more expensive because these tickets will be useable on Luas and Dart. Since these fares are more expensive, then they are hardly going to come down to bus prices and are more likely to meet half way. Hence are likey to increase relative to current bus ticket prices. While the backbone may be reasonably well served, by putting all the capacity in the centre onto these and the plan is to keep the present number of buses, it will lead to over-crowding and people will have to wait. That will blow the 4 minute which is really 16 minutes frequency out of the water. Then as you transfer to the outer routes, the wait times will be even higher. The net effect is where now you can hop on a bus and do the trip in one journey, for a certain fraction of people it will be two trips and take longer. This will not encourage but DISCOURAGE people from using the system. The NBRU analysis also shows that areas with Darts and Luas will have their existing bus capacity in the surrounding areas reduced because the logic is to push more people towards these services. But this can meet substantial walking for many people and not everyone is young and fit. They also show that fewer routes will be serving our main hospitals. You will have to go by car instead and get fleeced by the privatised parking instead.

Much of this information has come to light as a result of the many public meetings held recently throughout Dublin as hundreds of people have come out and discovered they are going to lose their bus service because it will be diverted away from their area. At the official Bus Connects public meetings which were a sham and provided vague information, people were repeatedly told the new system was not designed for "Mrs Murphy" down the road who can't walk very far and were told it was "mathematically" designed. It certainly wasn't socially designed. The anger has got so bad that even FF have picked up on it and have their people on the ground, some of whom called meetings too -despite the fact they cheer leaded the agenda to privatise the system when they were in power. Clearly they are worried it could have consequences for some of their seats and their overall popularity. Their strategy is probably to start distancing themselves from the impending disaster if this plan is ever rolled out.
The author of the new design of the Bus Connects claimed no-one understands the present system and nor do tourists. This is incorrect. Most people understand it and although tourists may not, why design it for tourists? Why not simply put up more maps at bus stops and shelters. Ah but this would take away the advertising space and the private owners of many of the bus shelters would object to that intrusion on advertising space surely. The Dublin Bus network evolved with the city as it grew and new estates popped up and routes were modified to serve them and the tentacles of the network reach in quite well. Under the new system many housing estates will have their routes changed away from them and people will have to walk (in the rain) further distances. This is because they are trying to stretch the coverage. The general idea seems to be, if it is new, it is better. Unfortunately that does not hold any more. These days new, usually means lower quality, shoddy goods or services and is just a trick to get you to spend more. In the case of Bus Connects, it is just the cynical PR to tear up a system, which although it needs improvements, to be replaced by something some outside consultancy designed in 3 weeks and by people who don't live here, don't know Dublin because you can't in a short time, and by people who will never use it.

The real motive behind Bus Connects is to privatise Dublin Bus. Already more than 10% of the (24) routes went out to tender and even though Dublin Bus came in with the lowest bid, a UK company got the contract. Apparently to encourage competition. Then strangely the NTA ordered Dublin Bus to re-spray all their bus in blue at a cost of €2 million to Dublin Bus, the same colours as the said company. However Dublin Bus had long ago paint the front of buses yellow to make it easier for elderly people, those with visible impairments and disabled people to easily recognise them and see them coming. These people were not consulted and after many thousands of complaints, the buses were sent back at taxpayer cost again, to get them resprayed once more with the yellow on the front. All of this smacks of the same wastage of money we saw with the water charges where the Irish Water complained about how the charges and meters were needed to fix the leaks even though it cost over € 500 m to put in and since every meter added 2 extra connections for a total of about 1 million extra connections. This automatically meant the leakage rate went even higher because many of these would leak anyhow.. What we will and our seeing here is Dublin Bus forced to spend more that will ultimately benefit private operators

So with Bus Connects we see that the forces behind privatisation have taken advantage of the discontent with the bus network to push their agenda. With private operators running the bus network, fares will go up, non-lucratative routes will wither, frequencys will go down, working conditions and pay will go down, workforce will be discontent, the incentive to spend on maintenance and safety will be do less and cut cots. And most importantly executives salaries will increase. There can be a thin line between running any particular system well and badly and once in the hands of private multi-nationals, the central incentive for the operators is to milk the system for what it can and public "good" and service will be bottom of the list. This will lead to less not more people using it and more cars not less on the road and so make a farce of the governments efforts to do it's bit to address global warming.

People who have travelled on the public transport system in places like the Netherlands, Switzerland or Germany often come back here and wonder why the bus system is so bad in comparison in Dublin. The reason is quite simple. There is a very strict adherence to right-wing ideology. There is little investment in the system in terms of the number of buses. Dublin bus has just over 1000 buses for the entire city! It has been intentionaly hamstrung by successive FF and FG governments who do not want to see it succeed. The more Dublin Bus reached it's targets, the more obstacles they put in place for them. Dublin bus should haven been given investment to double the size of it's fleet and then carefully redesign parts of the network and add several new oribtal routes. Dublin Bus also has the lowest subsidiy throughout the EU. The FF and FG governments for decades have been in the thrall of the car lobby. We have probably the highest car use and one of the highest annual car mileage figures in Europe. It is all related to the sprawl and the maddening and time wasting commute that hundreds of thousands of people are forced to do day in and day out, because a good public transport system is automatically bad news for the selling of cars, car insurance, petrol and road building.

There is an opportunity to have your voice heard but the deadline is fast approaching and it is Friday 28th Sept 2018. People should write a letter to voice their objection and outline why. One of the problems though is that dispite the mass of documentation, there is little hard information and this is intentional. It is so you find it hard to have specific information to object to. The submission should be made in writing to the address below. Do NOT use the online poll run by Bus Connects because these online polls are easily manipulated, the data extracted is often very selective and can go missing. It is also not transparent. Think electronic voting. At least several hundred ways for that to be hacked, manipulated or whatever.

The National Transport Authority
Since 2009 as part of the privatisation agenda for the entire transport sector, the NTA have taken control of price setting, routes, and route frequencies over from Dublin Bus who no longer have any say. They have already privatised over 10% of the routes and within 4 or 5 years, most of the network will be "put out for tender" which is code for privatisation. Apparently all these "rules" come from the EU but in reality they are the result of intensive lobbying by corporate lobbies to the unaccountable and undemocratic European Commission over the years as the whole concept of "Social Europe" has simply now become Corporate and Privatise everything Europe. Just look at how the government insists of solving the housing problem. Their solution has been to bail out the bankers at tax payers cost then hand over all the assets to Vulture funds for near nothing, then buy parts of it back at market rates, and then subsidize landlords to prop up the rental market for them by the means of rent allowance so as to ensure the top 5% or so have an decent income and everyone else is screwed indefinitely to the bone.

As an example of privatisation elsewhere, a number of years ago the UK government privatised the rail network in Britain and took the entire network away from British Rail and gave it to a private operator with fantastical claims of market efficiency, no more subsidies, customer choice and so on. For the first four years the company made a profit and all the executives extracted huge salaries. The reason: they slashed the workforce and slashed all maintenance of the rail network. Result: Over the next decade or so there were a number of major rail accidents with many deaths. First time in years. After four years the company started making a loss and this was because the lack of maintenance of the network caught up with them and they had to patch it up except now they had laid off most of the experienced staff. It lead to massive disruptions on the network, cancelled trains, longer journeys and general chaos. Eventually after the public outcry got too loud the government took it all back, spent a load of money on it and now it is run by a non-profit company. i.e. the profit motive does not work especially when it comes to things related to a service to the general public.

What people may not realize is that the Irish government created CIE in the 1940s which at one time ran Dublin Bus, regional bus and the railways in Ireland but since broken up into Dublin Bus, Bus Eireann and Irish Rail. Why did they do this? Because previous there was a mis-mash of private operators running all these services all competing with each other and it was chaotic. It was done in the national interest because even our capitalist parties FF and FG could see the chaotic system was not serving the country. Why would anyone expect a different result this time around?

Details for Postal Submission to National Transport Authority (NTA)
BusConnects Dublin Area Bus Network Redesign
National Transport Authority
Dun Sceine, Harcourt Lane
Dublin 2
D02 WT20

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