The man spearheading a campaign for an improved bus service in Cork says he plans to take his crusade straight to the top of the bus company.
Student Sam McCormack, whose campaign was first highlighted in last Saturday’s Irish Examiner, says he’s been inundated since with complaints from bus users all over the country about late buses, no-shows and the poor response from Bus Eireann’s customer service department.
He flagged the issues directly with Bus Eireann CEO Stephen Kent and got a detailed response on several specific queries.
However, Mr Kent said he can’t accept any more customer complaints through this campaign group, acting as an intermediary, and future complaints be directed through the “normal channels of customer care”.
But Mr McCormack said he intends to keep the pressure up on the company’s top brass until he sees improvements.
“The responses I’ve been getting from bus users in the past week show that there are problems with the bus service all over the country,” he said.
Bus Eireann management in Cork met Mr McCormack before Christmas to explain the challenges of delivering a reliable and efficient bus service.
They blamed increased traffic and pointed out that Cork city and suburbs have just 14.3km of bus lanes - or 2.2% of the area’s road network.
Mr Kent said service punctuality is the company’s “number one priority” and that in recent months, they have improved the service on routes 207a, 203, 208, 213 and 215 through punctuality reviews and in some cases re-routing.
“While we always endeavour to provide services as advertised, operational issues and sheer volumes of traffic can at times impact on our service levels and this can be most particularly acute in December in the run-up to Christmas shopping,” he said.
But he pointed out that since the beginning of 2018, passenger journeys on Bus Éireann services in Cork grew by over 10% to over 14m, mainly due to timetable enhancements and fleet investment.
“In recent months, helped also by lower fares determined by the NTA, we have experienced growth of over 15% across the network. This is a very positive news story for Cork and reflects one of the highest growth levels across the entire PSO network,” he added.
He said Bus Éireann operates over 1,500 trips every day on the city and urban networks in Cork and the St Patrick’s St bus lanes have reduced some journey times on some services by up to 28%.
The introduction from this January 13 of a 24-hour service on the 220 route and a doubling of frequency at peak times was described by Mr Kent as “the most significant enhancement on any route in our network”.
He said minor changes on routes 216 and 223 from January 13, and additional frequency improvements on routes 202, 221 and 208 in late spring/early summer, should deliver additional improvements.
The NTA is to fund over 30 new double-deck buses for the city in 2019.