Privatisation at heart of Fine Gael/Labour plans for bus services - Ellis
Sinn Féin Transport Spokesperson Dessie Ellis TD has called the move to offer 10% of public bus routes for private tender by the Fine Gael/Labour government as the start of an ideological crusade to begin the privatisation of public transport services. In Questions to the Minister in the Dáil this morning, he blamed the impending industrial action by Bus Éireann and Dublin Bus workers on the government who he said had brought about a situation where “we face some of the most serious and sustained industrial action for decades”.
Deputy Ellis continued:
“The Dublin Bus and Bus Eireann workers have resolved to show the Minister and his government the importance of their work and the service their companies provide to the public and will bring this state to a standstill. They have been made to feel this is their only choice.
“The private tendering of 10% of routes should not be underestimated. It is a salvo, the thin end of the wedge which will cause major trouble to public transport companies under CIE in the medium term and if allowed to continue bring about their downfall.
“This can be seen very obviously in the guinea pig that is the Waterford bus services, where 100% of routes are up for private tender.
“Private operators, most likely large
multinational transport companies will see this as the green light for them to
take over and begin to reap a handsome profit from the states transport needs.
They know that, like in London and other cities, private operators can effectively milk the public purse for much more subsidy than what the public transport companies can, all the while making profits by cutting routes which are socially beneficial but unprofitable, lowering pay rates and doing whatever they like with fares.
“Successive governments have claimed to be able to manage the use of private profit companies in providing for public needs but we have example after example of these bodies taking the cream and leaving the state to pick up the tab.
“Bus Éireann and Dublin Bus receive much less in subsidy from the state than most public transport companies across Europe and significantly less than private operators contracted to service formerly publicly managed routes. This subsidy was cut for years and the companies were forced to raise fares further lowering passenger numbers and artificially increasing public dissatisfaction.
“Despite this, the public do not want their public transport companies privatised. The public, particularly Dubliners, know the value of public transport. Dublin Bus and Bus Éireann have actually managed to weather the crisis and increase customer satisfaction and passenger numbers for the last few years.
“They are well on track to return to a surplus in the coming years given the proper supports, but this does sit well with the privatisation agenda of Fine Gael.
“We have already seen the effects of this strategy on people who depend on these services which are not profitable but socially beneficial. Recent announcement which have now been rowed back on from Bus Eireann showed that the company is attempting to cut less profitable routes to be in a better position to defend its more profitable ones from privatisation. This is the cost of having public service compete with private profit.
“Bus Éireann and Dublin Bus were left to survive or fall on their own and they have survived but now the government seeks to kill them not by ignoring them but by actively undermining them. In reality, the subsidy for Bus Eireann and Dublin Bus were cut 24% and 21% under this government, while money was pumped into expanding the privately operated Luas.”
Deputy Ellis also called on the public to show support for the industrial action by Bus Eireann and Dublin Bus workers who he said were fighting to save the service the public depended on.