Ticket to Ride

With further cuts announced this week for Dublin Bus, Emily Mullen ponders the future of the service

This week has seen the unveiling of Dublin Bus’s fifteen million euro cost-cutting plan. With a deficit of up to forty-nine million euro per annum, a spokesperson from the bus company has attributed the ongoing recession and a decline in passenger numbers as the cause of its shortfall. However a sufficient reduction in government subvention coupled with an increase in fuel costs seems to be a cause for additional financial concern. Without governmental subsidies, the semi-state company has fallen pray to the recession. Dublin Bus has already taken many steps in restructuring and has placed many cost cutting provisions in place already. In addition to an employee pay freeze lasting until late December 2014, and 2008’s relentless cuts, employees will face further reductions. Under the proposals launched last week employees will see their overtime and other premium payments reduced, as well as a decrease in their allowance of annual leave, a vital source of income for many. Meanwhile, management and clerical staff will see an increase to their working week. The company said it does not have immediate plans to reduce basic pay, but added that this was “dependent on successful completion of the plan and general economic and financial trends.”

The full extent to which these cuts will affect the public is hard to quantify. What we can guarantee is that fewer governmental grants and the extra cuts that are being proposed will certainly affect the quality of service being provided. Bus frequency may be upset if the government continues to clip necessary funding and coupled with the risk of industrial action taken by disgruntled unions and their contingents, passengers could be severely impacted. Despite a guarantee that customers will not be affected, SIPTU Transport Secretary Willie Noone warns that industrial action is a possibility stating that they “agree that the company is in dire financial straits but we’re not willing to go down to the lowest common denominator.”

It seems reasonable that some sectors should face more grueling cuts than others, leaving the more lucrative and productive semi-state companies in relative comfort. However the black hole that is the bank deficit has taken up the majority of state resources, leaving the public service largely to its own devices with a sharp decrease in funding. Through a lack of commercial understanding and a cut in government subvention, Dublin Bus has become largely undeveloped and stagnant as a company. The money being saved through these cuts should be pumped back into this company, through advertising and initiatives. Its position is one of support to the Dublin district at large, providing communities with a transport network vital for their daily lives. These buses are part of our day-to-day existence and without their regularity, punctuality and ability to transport us to far-flung towns and villages, many from outside the centre of Dublin would not be able to continue to work and socialise as they do. The effectiveness of these buses is the knowledge that no matter how insignificant or how dull a destination may be, there will always be a 46 or an 11 that will take you where you need to go.
Dublin Bus appears to be coping remarkably well in light of these proposed cuts. These cuts are targeting overtime and annual leave entitlements as opposed to  involuntary redundancies. These austerity measures prove that the company has faith in its future and are not willing to axe jobs just yet. Precautions have been put in place to ensure a more efficient staffing policy system than previous years with new recruits starting on lower rates of pay and being recruited upon a four-day week basis. These austerity measures taken by Dublin Bus, in the recent past and in the imminent future should not continue to go unnoticed, here is a company that has prepared for the worst and has ensured it’s future survival regardless of constant cuts to public sector spending.