MEMORANDUM FROM THE NATIONAL CONSUMER ADVISORY COUNCIL
The National Consumer Advisory Council considers that if the investigation proposed by the Joint Committee on State Sponsored Bodies were to be meaningful it would need specific terms of reference or at least headings under which an examination could be made. Since this necessary basis has not been produced the Council can only contribute views arrived at by observation.
The Council is concerned at the very short period of time allowed for the examination of CIE. When one takes Easter into account the date set for the return of comments left very little time for a detailed study to be made. When the other State Sponsored Bodies listed in the order of reference are being investigated it is suggested that more time be allowed so that an adequate examination of the body concerned can be made.
The Council after consideration put forward the following comments:
The operations of CIE can be divided into the following categories:
General comments on Urban Commuter Services
The Council is of the opinion that the most pressing part of the problem is the Dublin City bus service. CIE is not fulfilling its mandate to provide reasonable, efficient and economic transport. Buses are not running to schedule, in fact buses are non existent on many routes at present. Car owners are bringing their cars to work because they have no other option. Now that the long term availability of oil is in the balance the traffic authority will have to take cognisance of this and decide on the best possible economic way to use the oil that will be available so as to get commuters to work.
The development o an efficient bus service which runs on time should get priority. A bus can carry 70 passengers whereas it would take at least 35 cars or maybe more—often cars have the driver only which is a very big fuel wastage and also contributes to traffic jams. CIE is a monoply company at present, consequently if a strike arises as at present more people are disadvantaged than if the services were run by a number of private companies. In view of these recurring strikes and their constant upset to the orderly business of the citizens of this city the idea of introducing private services is a matter that should be very seriously considered. On the other hand should the provision of transport services be considered a necessary social service and the commercial consideration to pay its way be waived for the Company. A Transport User Council should be considered to give advice.
1. Introduce a Transport Authority
If measures are to be adopted to achieve an efficient transport service in the Urban area it is manifestly clear that one central traffic authority is needed to co-ordinate the different bodies viz. Road passenger and Dublin Suburban Rail. A very close liaison must be developed between this body and Dublin County Council, Dublin Corporation, the ESB, Department of Posts and Telegraphs and Department of the Environment. This would ensure that the laying of pipes, waterworks, drainage, ESB works etc. will be pursued in an orderly fashion, systematically so that the minimum inconvenience will be caused to the travelling public. How often in recent times has one seen one stretch of road out of action for weeks by the Dublin Corporation or the ESB and the same stretch is dug up again some weeks later by Posts and Telegraphs with further delay and inconvenience all round. Surely with proper planning beforehand this kind of incidence could be eliminated.
2. Bus Lanes
Most of the streets in and around Dublin are not conducive to the operation of bus lanes as they are too narrow. However, in most of the clearways there are two lanes of traffic and an attempt might be made to use the lane nearest the kerb as a bus lane during peak-hour traffic. More definite policing than there is at prsent would be needed if this were to be effective. One man buses should get priority consideration for most routes.
3. Obstructive parking
Inconsiderate and obstructive parking (double and sometimes triple) should have on the spot fines high enough to deter a repetition by the Offender.
4. Commercial parking
This should as far as possible be on side streets and delivery vans and lorries working at times when clearways are in operation should be discontinued.
5. Opening up of Railway Stations at Hazel Hatch, Lucan and Kilcoole
Consideration should be given to modernising these intermediate stations and others. Any built up areas where a station is adjacent should be considered so that a transference of passengers from road to rail could take place so as to ease congestion. The opening up of the Harcourt Railway line as a bus route or a rail route should also be considered. In conjunction, ring routes connecting railway stations should be examined to see if this is feasible.
6. Frequency of failure of traffic lights
Council members mentioned that when traffic lights are out of order traffic is chaotic. Earlier reporting of their failure would mean earlier restoration. It was thought that if a telephone number were available where the public could report the lights failure immediately it happened it would speed up the repair and let the traffic resume more quickly than at present.
7. Flexi Time
The possibility of introducing flexi time into offices and Departments of the Public Service and also in the primary schools might be considered. The Secondary Schools are returning fairly late at present and any alteration of their times would probably bring them into peak hour evening traffic adding further to the congestion.
8. Development of Centre City parking
Centre City parking would need to be extended or restricted to certain times. Instead of spending millions on the proposed motorway linking Ringsend and Clontarf some of the members thought this money would be better spent on multi storey car parks.
9. Rapid Transit Buses
At present country travellers as well as commuters are bringing cars into the centre of the city. If rapid transit buses were provided from the outskirts of the city to a central point this would mean a big reduction in central city car traffic. Car parks at outlying areas would be essential to facilitate travellers.
Since joining the Common Market and the advent of the big container traffic a new concept has been added to the density of traffic both in Urban and Rural areas. Irish roads and streets other than the Naas dual carriageway are completely unsuitable for them. Certainly they were never meant for the city streets. It is realised that modern commerce dictates their necessity so they should only be allowed in at off peak times to travel to central depots or a decision should be made to allow them only travel by night. Smaller delivery vans could then distribute the goods from these central depots. Commercial vehicles of the juggernaut type should be prohibited on main arteries and bus routes during peak hours.
Long distance Buses
Bus Expressway is now operating for some time and should be examined. Is the service losing custom by stopping only at pre-arranged points? These buses have been seen passing through large towns half empty. Could mini buses be used as a substitute at lesser cost.
It was pointed out by some of the members that there are private buses serving country towns very satisfactorily at reasonable rates. Could private buses be allowed to operate all rural routes. Destinations on all buses should be both in Irish and English. This has been a recurring complaint especially from overseas visitors.
CIE offer frequent enticements to the public to use rail services but the connecting public transport is often discouraging e.g. if one uses a provincial bus to come into Cork to get a train one is deposited a good ten minutes walk from the station. This is not attractive especially if one has any type of heavy luggage to carry. Refreshment facilities have deteriorated, snacks are indifferent and the price for a full meal is very high with cramped accommodation in the dining car. The long distance bus termini should be connected to the railway stations and to the city centre by a shuttle service.
It was thought that commuter trains should run later in the evening than at present.
Are small stations throughout the country overstaffed. It would appear that each worker only performs very limited duties. In order to obtain maximum efficiency the possibility of them covering a wide range of duties should be examined.
It would appear that very little use of rail is being made to transport freight. This is an area which should be investigated with a view to transferring, as much as possible, road freight to the railways which are now underutilised. Is it necessary to run goods trains at night? Could they not be fitted in to the day schedule so as to reduce expense.
The possibility of transferring freight from roads to the canals that are navigable should be considered. An investigation of the parts of the canals that are not navigable should also be underaken—perhaps they could be filled in and roads laid so as to ease some of the congestion. It is realised though that recently the responsibility for canals has been transferred to the Board of Works.
Are the hotels run by CIE in too high a price bracket. £19.10 per night for a single room does seem pricey. It is not known whether this price attracts full houses during the tourist season thereby justifying the charge. It is suggested that perhaps if services were streamlined prices might possibly be reduced which no doubt would attract more tourists.
CIE’s management/employee relationship appears to be disastrous if the recurring strikes are any witness. Is there a personnel officer or indeed a personnel division within the company with any powers that can make its decisions stick. Reasonableness seems to be lacking on both sides of the divide. The public does not know anything beyond the fact that Dublin buses rarely adhere to schedule (even when not on strike).
It is appreciated that traffic causes delays as it builds up but this does not explain the frequent non arrival of early morning buses between 8 and 8.30 a.m. at their suburban termini. An air of indiscipline among the crews is very noticeable. Most of the older crews appear to wear uniforms but the younger ones do not. If there were proper supervision this would not happen. If the radio controls were being worked properly it should contribute to the smooth working of the service. A member of the public is often afraid to ask even after waiting ¾ hour what was the reason for the delay. He might be told as one was recently that he was very lucky that the bus turned up—if he were on a certain route he would have none at all. On the other side of the coin does management consider that a basic rate of £52 per week for driving a bus across Dublin in 1979 is a just wage.
Are there too many Unions in CIE? Some system of rationalisation should be tried. If one Union disagrees with something the whole service is disrupted. Perhaps worker participation at board level might be considered or voting power on subject under discussion could be given to Unions in proportion to membership.
Flexibility was necessary if the motorist is to be wooed on to the bus. Dirty buses should be open to a fine. Springfield was mentioned as not having a proper bus service. Cars coming from this and other recently built up areas like it must reach very high figures. A definite attempt to provide a satisfactory service to those areas should be undertaken.
Some members thought that CIE should facilitate commuters by having special weekly as well as monthly tickets. It was noticeable at times that fares were not collected. Having weekly tickets would eliminate this practice and increase the revenue to CIE. It was also thought that there weren’t enough buses on the roads.