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4 reasons Dublin Bus disruptions affect daily commuters

Photo by Michael Arlotto from Pexels.

Buses announced, then disappearing off the display screen is very common in the Irish capital. A significant number of commuters have experienced ghost buses. They are scheduled to arrive, but “sometimes buses don’t come and you have to wait for the next one”, said a daily commuter, “I take Dublin Bus 4 days a week when I need to go to university. I had two situations when buses were full and they just didn’t stop on bus stops”.

Andrew Edwards, Go Ahead’s managing director, stated that the company has been the victim of a cyber attack, which “impacted their IT system”. These IT problems mentioned by Mr. Edwards cause inaccurate real-time information on the bus stop displays. Dublin Bus has also been forced to cancel some buses due to the ongoing shortage of drivers.

Photo by Héloïse Chaudot for TheCircular.org

1. Shortage of drivers

This shortage of drivers leads to heavy consequences for daily commuters. Currently, Dublin Bus is counting 2,695 drivers. Although a thousand buses are running, users still experience disruptions on a daily basis. As a result of delays or cancellations, it’s very common for commuters to see their journey becoming significantly longer than expected. They end up paying for a taxi, which makes their journey more expensive than a leap card fare. Between October 2022 and May 2023, regular taxi usage has increased by 13%, for speed and convenience reasons. Public transportation systems often fall short of commuters’ expectations, resulting in increased wait times, reduced frequencies, and overcrowded buses. These issues can cause significant inconvenience for passengers and can negatively impact their quality of life.

In 2022, Dublin Bus was fined €1.5 million and Go Ahead was fined €885,000 by the National Transport Authority, as they failed to meet routes and timetables targets.

2. Higher number of users

Dublin Bus has been facing a shortage of drivers since the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2021, according to an annual performance report, 69.9 million passengers were using Dublin Bus, while in 2022, it was 121 million, an increase of 51.1 million. During the pandemic, the bus frequency and the number of kilometers driven were reduced due to the lower demand. However, due to the post-pandemic passenger increase, the demand was so high that Dublin Bus was unable to meet it. 

Chart from Héloïse Chaudot (created in Excel) for TheCircular.org

Harry McCann, Dublin Bus Consumer PR and Media Relations Executive didn’t accept to answer our questions on the matter, stating he was unable to meet our request for an interview. Ghost buses force people to anticipate their journeys more thoroughly. Those who live far from their workplace or university will have to leave even earlier to anticipate a potential cancellation or delay of their bus. 

“Every week, I have at least one issue, mostly because the buses don’t stop when they’re crowded”

Anonymous commuter

Commuters are facing another issue on top of ghost buses. Buses don’t stop when people wave at them because they are too crowded and can no longer take new passengers. This issue has been particularly experienced on Navan Road, where the bus is already full from Ongar, before entering Dublin: “Every week, I have at least one issue, mostly because the buses don’t stop when they’re crowded” stated a student who uses the bus every day to get to college.

3. Pandemic consequences

Dublin Bus is constantly hiring new staff, but they are still struggling with the consequences of the pandemic. Despite offering higher pay (€839.76 per week) than the Luas, and a significant number of advertisements being displayed on buses, there is still a considerable lack of staff.

Dublin Bus is actively in the process of hiring new drivers. The company has implemented several strategies to attract new candidates. High pay and flexible schedules such as a four-day work week, are some examples of the strategies employed. 

4. Increasing violence

Drivers are experiencing a rise in violence from angry customers, which may discourage potential new drivers from applying. Current drivers are facing violent and anti-social behaviour every day, such as insults because the customer had a bad experience with another driver. The visuals shown in the recent riots in O’Connell Street, where a bus could be seen on fire, provide further discouragement for potential new drivers.

One of the solutions to avoid ghost buses and delays could be to leave your house earlier. However, this might be difficult for commuters who work early and live quite far from their workplace. Another solution to this issue would be to follow the real-time information on the TFI Live app, which is more accurate than the displays. It shows where you are on the map, and gives you a list of the upcoming buses for your stop. The Irish Government has planned to spend €3.56 billion on transport for 2024 as part of the last budget, a rise of €1.04 billion from the 2023 budget. 

Alongside the increase in budget, Dublin Bus has begun to deploy electric buses which may be an opportunity for an overall increase of new drivers. This is assuming they do not begin phasing out existing buses. They have already ordered 120 vehicles in 2022, and an additional 210 should arrive in 2024. Having more silent motors will make the users’ experience much calmer, and will certainly lead to less anti-social behaviours towards Dublin Bus workers.

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