We have a poor public transport service because it is not really intended to be a service. It's not there for our convenience. Its primary goal is to get us into work and into town to spend our money in the shops. When the private transport firms were taken over and merged into CIE it was because they could not even do that.
Years of underinvestment in CIE brought it close to bankruptcy by the mid-1990s. The government subsidy (much of it to fund less used but necessary routes) had dropped from £24 million down to £5.6 million. Only in recent years has the subsidy been rising again, but it is still a long way behind most European countries. The average is 50%, in Ireland it is a mere 11%. Despite all this, and thanks to lots of changes agreed by bus workers, Dublin Bus made a profit of ¤3.4 million last year.
NBRU and SIPTU workers refused to collect fares on July 18th. This was a great way to hit the government in the pocket without inconveniencing the rest of us. According to Metroline chief executive, David O'Farrell, "a promise of free fare days and one day strikes is not what the public wants". Well he was wrong about that!
Full support for the bus and train workers is in all our interests. We don't need privatisation - we do need a free public transport service, operated for passengers and run by the people with the best knowledge, the transport workers themselves.
See The consequences of transport privatisation
This edition is No76 published in August 2003