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Friday 23 June 2017

'I don't know how I'll get to hospital' - strike fears of bus passengers

Toby Kavanagh
Toby Kavanagh
Stephen Meehan

An elderly man has told how making regular trips to hospital in Dublin will become more difficult if all-out strike action at Bus Eireann goes ahead.

Toby Kavanagh, from Portlaoise, Co Laois, is one of 110,000 regular Bus Eireann passengers and commuters who face daily disruption after last-ditch talks to avoid industrial action collapsed.

Axed

It has also been confirmed that the Dublin-Clonmel, Athlone-Westport and Dublin-Derry routes could be axed to make immediate savings of €1.1m.

While many support the staff's decision to strike, commuters fear the negative impact it will have on their health, work-life balance and relationships.

Mr Kavanagh has to make regular visits to Dublin for check-ups. He said passengers were hoping strike action could be avoided.

"There's a lot of people dependent on Bus Eireann to come up to Dublin," he said.

"They're not able to walk to the train station. Hospitals are the main places people need to get, so I don't know what we're going to do.

"The train is awkward for me because I need to get off at the hospital."

Stephen Meehan, who lives with his girlfriend in Castleblayney, Co Monaghan, commutes to Dublin and will be one of many affected by the Dublin-Derry route being axed.

"I get up every morning and, when I get on, the bus is nearly full," he said.

"By the time I get on there's only a couple of seats left, so I'm not sure where they are losing money on that route.

"It will mean I'll have to drive up now and try to find parking somewhere. It will be extra expenditure for me as well in terms of petrol and stuff, so I'm very worried about it, yeah."

A woman who is originally from Hungary and travels to Omagh, Co Tyrone, on a weekly basis to visit her boyfriend, said: "If the buses go on strike I will have no way of getting there."

State transport chiefs said competition on intercity and motorway routes was not solely to blame for Bus Eireann's woes.

Scrutiny

"The notion that there is saturation on the intercity corridors served by Expressway services and that the National Transport Authority grants licences to operators at the drop of a hat do not stand up to scrutiny," said NTA chief executive Anne Graham.

"In fact, since 2011 we have rejected almost as many applications for licences on these key routes as we have granted."

The Oireachtas Transport Committee heard that 875,000 pensioners and others were eligible for free travel passes, and when companions and husbands and wives were taken into account there were potentially 1.4 million people in the scheme.

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