Brendan Fehily’s frustration and outrage at the 208 Bishopstown bus service is totally justified but unfortunately, his experience is but the tip of the iceberg. (Irish Examiner letters 15/12/2018). By way of background, Bus Éireann and the National Transport Authority (NTA) decided in July of 2012 to increase the frequency of a number of Cork City bus routes from 20 to 10-minute intervals.
To achieve this new utopian target, it was necessary to invest in a huge taxpayer funded capital programme, in consultant designed truncated bus lanes, a fleet of new double deck buses as well as extra driving, administration and maintenance staff. Fuel and maintenance costs would at least double as a result.
Very quickly, as expected, it was clear that, because of congestion and multiple traffic lights throughout the route, the 10-minute frequency was totally unachievable, particularly on the 208 route.
The problem was quickly manifested on a daily basis, as witnessed by Mr Fehily last week, by Bishopstown buses travelling together in close convoys of twos, threes, and, believe it or not, in fours.
Often the first bus contains some passengers, with the immediate trailing buses empty. Individual buses are daily seen trapped in or crawling in congested traffic in both directions.
The corollary of this fiasco is that passengers are then left waiting in vain for up to 30 to 40 minutes and often longer.
In the public interest, having observed the problem for some months, Wilton residents wrote to Bus Éireann, the NTA and the Minister for Transport, giving them the benefit of our experience free gratis, foolishly thinking it might at least spark a review of the system. Typically, however, the response was uniformly one of rejection and denial, and the general tone was to mind our own business and leave the matter in the hands of the Dublin- based experts in the NTA.
Ironically, just recently, six years after we raised the problem initially, the manager of Bus Éireann in Cork City, Martin Walsh, and the CEO of the NTA, Anne Graham, admitted that traffic congestion was the main contributor to difficulties in meeting schedule times.
The minister, Shane Ross, said he doesn’t micro-manage Bus Éireann and quickly passed the buck to Ms Graham of the NTA, who passed it on again to one of her minions.
As the situation hasn’t improved in six years, we recently wrote again to Mr Ross suggesting that he set up an independent investigation into the whole fiasco, particularly the abuse and waste of hard-earned taxpayers’ money.
We await his reply with bated breath.