Updated: 19/01/17 : 05:32:30
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Taoiseach wobbles like duck on bus services

By Eugene McGloin
Political Editor

THE TAOISEACH wobbled like a duck yesterday, Wednesday.

But he wasnt trying to dance 'The Hucklebuck' or any such exotica of Erin Go Bragh from olden times.

His duck-wobble in the Dail, was all about trying to sound assured to himself -- AND assuring to us -- on the future of the nationwide bus network.

He didn't impress on either score. If there is to be ONE issue on which his tenure in the top job should be shaky this is it but don't hold your breath. 

My first ever job was in transport and I've always retained an active sympathy for the notion of a national network. 

My dad was one of many thousands who helped build the old GNR, then CIE and now Bus Eireann into the service model it is today.

Under Funded

But 2017 could be a crunch year for all that has been achieved down many decades.

No matter how you look at it, no matter where you look at it, the bus service across Ireland is under funded by governments. 

The Taoiseach, Enda Kenny, hinted otherwise yesterday but his briefers should maybe re-check their stats, huh.

Fianna Fáil needs to get off its backside, too. Its inaction dishonours the innovations of past party leaders re public transport as social glue.

'Dev' President

Most shambolic of all -- and ALL parties carry blame here -- is the Public Service Obligation (PSO) payment.

'Dev' was still President of Ireland in the most recent year that an appropriate scientific survey of the PSO usage of our national bus service was completed.

We were 'a young people's country,' politicians boasted, in that far-off decade. We are no such thing now.

We need to adjust the metric for measuring a key State funding component as it is 44 years out of date.

Tidy Thousand

That 1973 figure comes from the key Government Department dealing with those who have free travel entitlements.

I have a free pass on the Sligo town bus service which I NEVER ever use.

Four times a day, seven days a week, most weeks of the year I pay my way as a carer. 

That tots up at a tidy thousand euro funding each year, not the €50 which some Government marvels want to take from pensioners for their travel pass.

Why do I pay? I recognise that various colours of arses in all the main political parties over the decades have paid nothing but lip service to pensioners and to carers. 

Generous State allowances are paid to every youthful class of TD but NOT to pensioners.

No allowance despite the fact that some pensioners link their phones to personal security systems. Perverse.....

Unions provided stark, stark details last winter to an Oireachtas Committee of the shambolic State funding models used in Ireland to fund the bus network.

Social Tool

Data from 2000 shows that in cities like Bologna in Italy, 38% of operating costs come from the fare box and 56% from subvention. 

In Amsterdam, 25% comes from fare box and 64% comes from subvention.

But in Dublin, 96.4% of operating costs came from the fare box.....and only 3.6% came from State subvention.

So much for all the spools of bullshoot we have to listen to on too many days from politicians.

Too many politicians have (a) no real sympathy and/or (b) no real understanding of the social tool that is a properly funded nationwide bus service.

Of course, Ireland has to look over their shoulder at European Court law every we think aloud about (now) increasing State funding for the bus service.

Adverse Change

Ignore that argument for another day, but we should have an urgent audit of the adverse change in Irish society as we close Garda stations, community hospital services, post offices.....

Now we threaten bus services. In turn, the companies themselves now threaten their own workers.

Reduced wages and abolished premium do not equal company profits. It does not equate with efficiency, either. 

We have already seen the hard evidence of that in various bus companies, so why repeat a failed formula.