Sunday, February 25, 2018

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Bus Useless

Anthony McIntyre writes about the failure of service delivery with Bus Eireann.

Commuters might be left confused if they jump into a Dublin taxi with the simple request "Euston Station please.", particularly if the driver is not from Ireland and fails to pick up on the phonetics. A tight schedule traveller might easily end up three miles from their destination, having being taken to Bus Aras well down the quays. The taxi driver in response to passenger exasperation at now being too late to make the connecting train at Euston, might well claim that he thought he had been asked to go to Useless Station, the major depot in the capital for Bus Useless.

That pretty much sums up the quality of service on offer from Bus Eireann. Service is a misleading term that some consumer society needs to look into. Although the timetable would try to bamboozle passengers into thinking the 101 service from Dublin to Drogheda passes every twenty minutes in the rush hour, that should be regarded as guff, to be taken no more seriously than a politician's election literature. People have been known to stand at the stop at Seatown roundabout for more than an hour waiting on the every twenty minutes service. On occasion they have drifted off to get taxis or find an alternative route home, having strained their necks for what seemed like aeons in the forlorn hope that miracles do actually happen and that the elusive 101 might just come into view, that the endless procession of green Swords Express vehicles might just be punctuated by the arrival of the Bus Eireann red. Like an oasis in the desert it is just a mirage.

Frequently buses pass displaying the "bus full" sign in the front window. Other times as passengers run to catch the bus it accelerates away, the driver ignoring signals from others waiting on a different service that people are yards away. At that point the regret breezes through my head that we back these people when they are on strike. Even when they do stop, as most drivers do, once on the vehicle, flopping down in an uncomfortable seat, the passenger is immediately reminded that seats compete so vigorously for space that that it is even tighter to manoeuvre than on an economy class flight. A journey is an exercise in perpetual fidgeting and shape shifting in a vain bid to get comfortable.

Trying to catch a bus to make a flight or a match is seriously taking a chance. The traveller addicted to risk might like the close call but for the person with a destination to get to on time, it is a gamble where the odds are not with the punter.  Myself and my son arrived half way through the first half of an international soccer match at the Aviva, due to Bus Useless doing its usual. No más– we signed up to Matthews for the last game, Manchester United against Sampdoria and arrived well on time and in relative comfort. Another evening saw me wait over forty minutes after the scheduled time before the bus arrived to take me to the airport for a Coventry flight. There were no traffic jams or road diversions, just a case of Bus Useless doing what it does frequently. Trying to get somebody at the depot to explain the delay is like asking a bishop for the result of an investigation into clerical child rape.  Head scratching, a look into the middle distance up the road followed by a pretence of talking into the phone: a motionless manoeuvre in search of a seemingly motionless bus.

I dislike the idea of public services being privatised, handed over to profiteers. But when an enterprise like Matthews provides a much better, more comfortable service, that invariably gets people to their destination and leaves nobody strained and stranded for over an hour, it has to have a selling point well ahead of the shambles that characterises service delivery at Bus Useless. Were Mathews to run a service along the 101 route it would clean up. The only reason I set foot on Bus Useless is that there is no other way to reach my destination.

Passengers are well advised over the coming days with the potential intrusion into our already inclement weather scene of the Beast From the East, to take a packed lunch and a hot drink. Bus Useless will do as it has so often done, leaving you stranded in the freezing cold.

Citizens should stand by their public services but first their must be a service on offer. Bus Useless ... for those who want to get nowhere fast.

Anthony McIntyre blogs @ The Pensive Quill.

Follow Anthony McIntyre on Twitter @AnthonyMcIntyre      


Emmett Grogan said...

"Stand clear luggage doors operate" - and that's all I have to say about that there. ;)

Christopher Owens said...

I wholeheartedly recognise and sympathise with this point of view.

As someone who would regularly travel to Dublin from Belfast for gigs, I am well used to standing outside Bus Aras at 1 in the morning, seeing an empty bus supposedly heading for Belfast drive straight past me and a few stragglers, having to wait until 3am to hear the mechanised Southern tinged "STAND CLEAR, LUGGAGE DOORS OPERATING" instruction from the bus (thinking that still sends chills down my spine), and then have the driver stop at Dublin Airport, Newry, Banbridge and Sprucefield before finally hitting Belfast (often at 5:45am).

Amazingly, I tolerated this service for ten years. Thankfully, the Aircoach provides a reliable, direct and much more comfortable service.

Niall said...

Have you ever tried the Metro bus service in that would grind your expectations to dust..I used it for 8 years and then gave up as it was stressing me out every morning wondering if it would turn up and on time...awful service..Translink are now restructuring the roads of West Belfast to allow for their new 'Glider' service (which is actually a bus with fancy hub-caps) which has had the unexpected consequence of causing major traffic disruption from shoppers trying to get out of the shopping centres...but never mind, at least the Glider project is on track. When you look closer at the Glider project it has so many stops along its route that you would need a packed lunch with you just to get in to town!!!
As you say, 'Service' is not the right concept for public transport....

DaithiD said...

Just to make thiose queuing feel better:

My experiences with Bus Eireann in Galway was shocking. After getting a cab instead, and breaking the London conditioning of not speaking to the driver, I found he knew my uncle and charged me the non tourist rate to Inverin, a third of what I usually paid when I sat in silence,which worked out nearly the same price for three of us on Bus Eireann , at a lot more convenience (thank you Inverin Taxis!). Prices are shockingly expensive in Ireland for public transport.

Incidentally bus drivers over here won’t reopen doors once moved from a stop (even if stationary at that point) due to insurance stipulations, they aren’t covered for accidents that occur away from stops so are told not to let people on even if it seems the decent thing to do.

Steve R said...

In other news, former Provo Dr McIntyre has confirmed today he is turning into a grumpy old git. lol