17 December 2008

Dempsey does more Damage to CIÉ

Is there anyone in our incompetent government who understands at least the basic rules of Economics, and how markets and societies work? Obviously not.

The latest example of a goat made gardener is Noel Dempsey (right), a pigheaded Fianna Fáil apparatchik from Co. Meath and the Cabinet's bouncer, who has been in charge of too many government departments to keep track of them all.
However, people working in those departments do remember him well, as he left each of them in a real mess when he was moved on to run down and wreck the next one. (They loathe him especially in Education, and among the civil servants in the Customs House - home of the Dept. of the Environment - he has a status only one step removed from the Anti-Christ...)

Currently Dempsey is in charge of Transport, since Martin Cullen (left), our very own little clown from Waterford city who had it before him, did not manage to destroy the public transport system quickly enough.
Not for want of trying, mind you, but Martin is just not very effective, regardless what he does.
Dempsey will do better, and today he moved another step closer to dismantle the already poor structure of public transport in Ireland.

He told the Dáil that Coras Iompair Éireann (CIÉ) - the state-owned holding company that controls Iarnród Éireann (the Irish railways), Bus Éireann and Dublin Bus - "will make a deficit of € 39 million this year", compared with a deficit of just under € 1.5 million in 2007.

Anyone who knows CIÉ with its arrogant and self-serving attitudes, sluggish and inefficient management, under-qualified but over-paid staff and total lack of regard for its passengers will not be surprised. Only those who have no other choice ever travel with the three CIÉ companies.

To give you an example: Both Iarnród Éireann and Bus Éireann provide regular services from Waterford to Dublin (and back, if you are lucky). So anyone here who has business in Dublin can get there by either train or bus. The problem is that there are only a few services per day, and none at all in the evening or through the night.
If I want to use a train, I can leave Waterford at about 7.30 a.m. and will be in Dublin by 10 a.m., unless there is "a problem on the line", which happens rather often. By bus it will take me three hours, but the costs are almost the same.
I have to be very quick in Dublin, as the last bus back to Waterford leaves the capital at 6 p.m. and the last train only a few minutes later. This means that anything that extends beyond 5 p.m. cannot be done in Dublin when using CIÉ services. Not even to mention the idea of going to a concert or seeing a play in a Dublin theatre. Impossible for an Irish provincial person depending on public transport.

So if one has a longer day in Dublin, a car is the only way to get there - and back - in a reasonable way. However, there is - at least from Waterford (and several other towns along the route) - an alternative to the CIÉ services. A private bus company runs a regular service to Dublin (city and airport) seven days a week. And guess what? Their fare is half of what CIÉ charges, and they go a lot more often, including at night. It is no surprise that their buses are usually well filled, while CIÉ services drive around the country with their buses often more than half empty.

Irish People are not stupid. But unfortunately our current government (a coalition of Fianna Fáil and the Green Party) is, and the management of CIÉ follows the government closely.

CIÉ's mismanagement has now run up an amazing deficit of over € 39 million. This is a lot for you and me, but only a small sum for a government these days.
Especially one that has just declared it will hand over € 10 billion to save our failing (privately owned) banks.
In many other EU countries public transport operations like CIÉ receive hundreds of millions of state subsidies every year, in order to provide a proper, functional and affordable system of public transport. And there people use their trains, buses and trams all the time, in large numbers and quite happily.

But what is Ireland doing? Our idiot of a Transport Minister has nothing better to offer than an increase of (the already way too expensive) fares by a further 10%, a reduction of the frequency of services, and a withdrawl of some routes altogether.

Is there a doctor in Leinster House? (There are actually a few...)
Because someone qualified needs to certify Noel Dempsey as insane and remove him from his job to a lunatic asylum, where he belongs!

What Noel Dempsey proposed today will make CIÉ even less attractive for potential passengers, and thus create an increase in losses, and nothing else.
But then again, who knows, perhaps this is exactly his intention and brief. If FF's chief wrecker makes CIÉ even more uncompetitive as it is already, the government could justify to break it up and privatise its pieces. I am sure some greedy financial vultures with deep pockets and friendly relations to Fianna Fáil are already waiting in the wings.

In order to flourish - or at least function properly - CIÉ needs to lower its fares (in some cases significantly), increase its frequency of services, improve the technical quality and comfort of its rolling stock, get rid of its incompetent management and its arrogant attitude, and then - under new leaders - train and motivate its staff for the 21st century. It is not difficult to do that, as long as there is a will and competent people. All over Europe it works very well.

Only here in Ireland the government is incapable of creating and maintaining a decent public transport system, available to the majority of the people and affordable for all. Besides Health, Education and the financial sector, public transport and infrastructure is the most seriously underfunded part of our nation and one of the worst managed as well. But it is a vital factor for the economy, and essential in the attempt to get out of recession.
Without proper transport systems, neither goods and materials will flow, nor will people have enough regular mobility.

This is not rocket science. Everyone with common sense and at least some understanding of the economy will grasp this nettle quite easily.
However, when it comes to brains, new ideas, imagination and the ability to solve problems, our current government is an infertile wasteland. And among the intellectually challenged in Leinster House Noel Dempsey is one of the most serious cases. If he ever had a brain, it must have gone AWOL at some stage without anyone noticing.

The sooner he is removed from his current position, the better for CIÉ and public transport in Ireland. In fact, the sooner the whole government goes, the better for everyone and everything on this island.

The Emerald Islander

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