Lateness, no-shows and rudeness of drivers is basis of complaints in Limerick

Nick Rabbitts

Reporter:

Nick Rabbitts

The National Transport Authority (NTA) released the complaints received from local bus passengers

The National Transport Authority (NTA) released the complaints received from local bus passengers

LATENESS, bus services not turning up and alleged rudeness of some drivers - these​ were among some of the many complaints the National Transport Authority (NTA) received from local bus passengers, writes Nick Rabbitts.

The NTA, which regulates transportation in this country, has provided the Limerick Leader with a rundown of formal complaints from local bus passengers, with a key problem being no-shows of bus lines.

One passenger wrote to the NTA on October 23 last, complaining that at 5.30pm, the 304A route – a service launched last year to serve from Raheen to Monaleen – did not show up.

“Its drivers seem to be hiding in Raheen,” the complainant said. “At the University Hospital stop, I took the 301 back into the city. There should have been more than two buses back into the Ladbrokes stop in Parnell Street. There seems to be a constant problem with this service.”

The same bus service, it was claimed, did not turn up at Monaleen National School on all but one day on a week last November.​

One passenger lodged a formal complaint against the driver of the 302 bus (Caherdavin), who accused them of not paying the fare, causing them “great embarrassment.”

“We arrived at the Henry Street bus stop at ten minutes to eight and watched the bus drive away. We are unsure if this was the 7.30pm bus leaving town 20 minutes late or if it was supposed to be the 8pm bus leaving town 10 minutes before schedule. We waited – neither the electronic bus timetable on Henry Street, nor the real-time smartphone app were giving accurate readings as to when the next bus would arrive,” the correspondent said.

“There are countless people complaining about how unreliable the Limerick bus service has become. People have been voicing their anger but nothing ever seems to change. I have complained to Bus Eireann on several occasions, but all I have ever received in return is an automated generic email response,” they added. “What will be done about this sub-par public service? Nobody can depend on bus routes in Limerick to get them to/from work/school/university on time.”

On the 302 service, one person added: “More often than not, the bus does not come and it’s at the point the service is unpredictable even though there is a timetable and an app for the bus. What can be done about this?”

The issue of the 323 bus service to Castleconnell, and its lack of total connection in the village was raised by one staff member at the University of Limerick.

“As you can imagine, with the growing shortage of student accommodation and rising rent prices, students are forced to live further out from the University of Limerick than in previous years. Therefore, many students are now commuting to and from Castleconnell, where they have secured accommodation,” they wrote, pointing out the irregular service only covers some parts of the village, leaving out areas like Scanlan Park, Cedarwood Grove Park, Lacka and the Tonvilles among others.

The authority also received complaints about services on the Limerick-Dublin corridor. One passenger complained the X12 service from Dublin Airport to Limerick City was cancelled on March 5 last year, forcing them into a two hour wait for another. There was a call for an additional service from Colbert station to Dublin Airport to plug the gap between 5.20am and 7.45am.

Bus Eireann pledges upgrade on Raheen to Castletroy routes

Bus Eireann has claimed that the percentage of complaints per 100,000 city passengers is just 0.01%.

The disclosure comes in a response sent to this newspaper following several queries by members of the Limerick Leader team.

The company also confirmed improvements are due on the 304 and 304A bus service in the coming months – something exclusively revealed in this newspaper last month.

The changes will be implemented in the next six weeks, ​while further, more enhanced changes, will take place later in the year which will see the introduction of more vehicles on the cross-city route.

In response to separate queries issued by the Limerick Leader team, the spokesperson also said that punctuality on this, the busiest route in the city, linking Raheen, the city and the university, is being severely impacted by factors outside its control.

They cite a lack of bus priority, significant travel congestion, as well as illegal parking of private vehicles of bus priority, something which in particular was a bone of contention several years ago by many O’Connell Avenue residents.

“Currently, there is only nine kilometres of bus priority in Limerick city, and this lack of infrastructure is severely impacting journey times and reliability,” a Bus Eireann spokesperson added. ​

Mayor James Collins, who met with Bláithín McElligott, the local service manager of the semi-state firm this week, said: “What they are doing is they are revising the timing. At the moment, a round trip from Raheen to UL and back again is 120 minutes, which is ridiculous.

“They are changing the timings to be more realistic. If it takes 135 minutes for a round-trip, they will change the times to reflect this. The scheduled bus time will be closer to when it actually shows up.”

Bus Eireann is working with the National Transport Authority on these new timetables.

Mayor Collins has pledged to work with council boss Conn Murray to put together a plan to get the busses moving.

“Can we start an initiative to stop people parking at bus stops, can we work with An Garda Siochana, can parking wardens act quickly on people parking in bus stops? Can we keep the bus lanes free. But also, can we speak to the gardai about some of the problems we experience at peak time,” he said.

With many passengers complaining about the time it takes to get on the buses and pay for a ticket, the spokesperson said a software upgrade will be introduced in the next six weeks, which will quicken the time, particularly for those people paying with a prepaid Leap card.

However, the Limerick Leader understands that unlike buses in Dublin, where people can ‘tap on’, without conversing with the driver, stand-alone Leap terminals will not be introduced here just yet.

Since the beginning of 2017, the  Bus Eireann spokesperson pointed out passenger journeys have grown by 20%, with ridership topping three-and-a-half million last year.

“This growth was aided by timetable enhancements introduced in 2017 as well as the delivery of new double-deck vehicles. These new double deck vehicles have comfortable seating, a dedicated wheelchair space, complementary wi-fi and CCTV security cameras throughout,” they added.

The improvements Bus Eireann intend on bringing to Limerick have already been brought in in Waterford and Galway. It has seen punctuality improve by 38% in the Deise, and 56% in the City of the Tribes, the firm added.