A decision on opening bus lanes to become a free-for-all could still be made, if upcoming strikes by bus drivers go ahead. Full-out strike action, with the full withdrawal of Dublin Bus and Bus Éireann services is expected to start on Friday.
Sergeant Alan Frawley at the Garda Press Office, said: “Bus lanes will remain in operation for the times designated by Road Traffic Regulations.”
But Sergeant Frawley said that a decision to open bus lanes to all traffic could be made closer to the strike. He said: “Bus lanes are for the use of public services vehicles — buses and taxis — and bicycles. Should a decision be made by authorities, closer to the time of the proposed industrial action, to open bus lanes to general traffic the public will be notified.”
Last year, bus lanes remained closed when there was a bus strike, but in previous bus strikes bus lanes became a free-for-all and the lanes were quickly congested blocking bicycles, private buses, private intercity coaches, and taxis. There is now a notably higher level of bicycles, private buses and taxis.
Despite many motorists thinking otherwise, bus lanes also generally remain in operation on bank holiday Mondays.
A 48 hour strike by bus drivers is planned to take place for this coming Friday and Saturday, May 1-2, with a further full-out strike on May 15-16. This is planned to be followed by work stoppages between May 29-31.
Anne Graham, head of the National Transport Authority (NTA), said: “These tendered routes are not being privatised – that would be about transfer of ownership and loss of public control, which isn’t the case here at all. What we’re doing is specifying details of a bus service we want delivered – we set out the fares, routes, frequencies, vehicles, environmental standards, customer service standards – and we will seek submissions from the market on that basis, from any operator, including the current operators Dublin Bus and Bus Éireann.”
“The successful tenderer will operate the specified services in return for an agreed fee, and will remit the collected fare revenues to the NTA. The NTA will maintain full control over service delivery and standards across all routes – in exactly the same way as we now do for Dublin Bus and Bus Éireann. We will also retain control of the vehicles and have, of course the right to withdraw the contract from a poorly performing supplier,” said Graham. “It’s very similar to the way in which the Luas is currently run, where the Railway Procurement Agency and the NTA awarded the operation of Luas to a private sector company.”
Dermot O’Leary, general secretary of the National Rail and Bus Union, said: “The NTA are obviously attempting to extricate themselves from their responsibility as regards the decision to privatise 10% of publicly-owned bus routes. The fact is, taking services from a public company and giving them to a private company is one of the fundamental cornerstones associated with privatisation. Attempting to fudge a response to our contention that this is a race to the bottom by saying that both Dublin and Bus Eireann can compete for the contracts, whilst at the same time admitting that one of the main reasons for tendering is to actually establish a comparator to assess value, is totally contradictory”.
Mr O’Leary added: “The NTA appear to want it both ways: suggesting that we go back to the LRC and re-engage with the employers would give effect to the notion that the dispute lies exclusively with the companies, when in fact it is the NTA, at the government’s behest, which is privatising bus routes. Today was an exercise in the NTA attempting to keep their hands clean, whilst at the same time having all the authority with no responsibility. Spinning and obfuscation will not mask the seriousness of the issues at play here”.