Disappearing buses and service unreliable

James Collins, Fianna Fáil. Photo: Cian Reinhardt

MAYOR of Limerick City and County, Cllr James Collins has called on the National Transport Authority (NTA) and Bus Éireann to address widespread public dissatisfaction with Limerick’s bus service.

Speaking at this Monday’s meeting of the Metropolitan District, Mayor Collins hit out at the current bus service, claiming it “isn’t reliable or trustworthy”.

“There are larger, long term strategic questions that have to be addressed by the NTA but there are immediate operational measures that Bus Éireann could take to address growing customer dissatisfaction with the bus service we are getting in Limerick,” Mayor Collins commented.

“The complaints are simple – the buses don’t run on time, they sometimes arrive in pairs, they sometimes disappear off the app providing online tracking. Real time bus stop information must be accurate. We need both local and express services.

“It doesn’t matter whether it’s Mungret, Dooradoyle or Raheen, Caherdavin or Castletroy, the problem extends throughout the Metropolitan bus service.”

Mayor Collins went on to thank the Gardaí for committing to increase enforcement on drivers either using bus lanes or parking in bus stops. But he also called on them to manage traffic at key punch points such as the Parkway Roundabout.

He also maintains there are immediate operational measures Bus Éireann can take to “get the buses moving”.

“Bus Éireann needs to engage with the Council and An Garda Siochana because the bus service doesn’t operate in isolation. We need a new transport strategy for Limerick, and a functioning, efficient, bus service is a vital part of that.

His Fianna Fáil party colleague Cllr Kieran O’Hanlon took the view that a special meeting was needed to discuss the city’s bus service.

“There are a lot of issues. We need a far more radical overhaul than just getting from A to B. Out in the housing estate in Rhebogue there is no bus service. This is just not good enough,” he insisted.

“There are a lot of issues to discuss in making a plan for immediate action. In Ballinacurra Road there was holy blue murder when we put in a bus lane. If we are serious about a bus corridor then tough decisions are going to have to be made in here.”

Independent councillor John Loftus, who pointed out that he doesn’t own a car, said he found it faster to walk than rely on public transport.

“The NTA need to get their finger out,” he said.

Cllr Sean Lynch (FF) told council members that he recently took a bus ride from the University of Limerick to Raheen, which took “two hours”.  He also called for Bus Éireann to look at providing services to Patrickswell, Mungret and Clarina.

Sinn Féin councillor John Costello took issue that no one had mentioned the bus drivers during the debate on city bus services.

“They are at the coalface. They are ambassadors for our city. They have to put up with being abused, being spat at, and racial abuse as well. The driver is a very important element in all this,” he told council members.

Councillors also expressed their dissatisfaction that Bus Éireann were not in attendance at this month’s Metropolitan District meeting to discuss their concerns. However, a statement to council members explained that Bus Éireann are currently in the final stages of reviewing operating data with a view to altering their timetable.

“The new punctuality assessed timetables are expected to be introduced in April 2019. These revised timetables will reflect actual traffic conditions including congestion pinch points and will deliver a considerable increase in reliability and punctuality on all Limerick city routes. Following on from this and also in conjunction with the National Transport Authority, there will be a more significant review which will look at the routings, frequencies and stops on transport in the Limerick City environs.”