THE prospect of resolving the Dublin Bus dispute in the short term has not been brought closer by the publication of details around the proposed restructuring of Bus Éireann.
Included in those proposals, seen by Transport Minister Shane Ross, are moves to separate the company’s loss-making Expressway service from the rest of the company and reduce conditions for staff. It is hard not to think that these initiatives are a precursor of an attempt to drive wider reform through all public transport operations. High-level sources said management had a boardroom mandate for restructuring and that proposals had been given to the Department of Transport, which had raised no objections.
Reforms involving pay cuts, redundancies or privatisation will be opposed by transport unions. However, Bus Éireann’s finances are in a critical position. The semi-state company lost €5.6m last year and has predicted a loss of around €6m this year. Bus Éireann does not habitually resort to compulsory redundancies but, as company sources pointed out, it is losing €500,000 a month and nothing can be ruled out. As our population becomes ever more urbanised and as climate change will ultimately make private motoring untenable public transport will be an essential element of urban planning. Without a sustainable service an area cannot be properly developed.
Minister Ross has refused to involve himself in the Dublin Bus dispute but the release of the Bus Éireann proposals is a forceful, backdoor, intervention by another name.
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