Minister disputes Patton Flyer claims

Comments in Dail by Transport Minister claim operator applied for licence in 2007, not 2006

Patton Flyer links Dalkey to Dublin Airport

Patton Flyer links Dalkey to Dublin Airport

Further interesting information has emerged in the long-running saga of the Patton Flyer coach service in Dublin, which the Department of Transport says is being run without a licence.

The service, which links Dalkey and Blackrock to Dublin Airport via the Eastlink and the Port Tunnel runs hourly and is seen to be carrying healthy loadings. DoT officials say they reported the operator to the Gardai in August 2007 for operating without a licence, though what action has been taken as a result is unclear.

Back in March, we reported on claims that a very long delay in dealing with a licence application had forced the coach company to start the service without a licence. According to the operator, they had submitted an application in 2006, without reply.

Now recent comments on the record of the Dail (Irish parliment) by Transport Minister Noel Dempsey seem to dispute this version of events, as according to the Minister the operator only applied for the licence in early 2007.

Below is the full text of the minister’s Dail response when questioned.

Apart from the date of the application, this answer is interesting in that it confirms that the reason for the licence not being granted is, as long suspected, the prior application for a licence by Aircoach, whose Greystone to Dublin Airport service only meets the Patton Flyer along part of the route.

 23. Deputy Seán Barrett asked the Minister for Transport  if he will grant a licence to a bus service (details supplied) to operate a scheduled bus service between Dalkey and intermediary points such as Glasthule, Dún Laoghaire and Monkstown with Dublin Airport which are not served by an alternative bus operator; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32450/08]

Minister for Transport (Deputy Noel Dempsey): My Department received an application on the 20 February 2007 from the operator to whom the Deputy refers, for a licence to operate bus passenger services between Dalkey and Dublin Airport. At that time, my Department had on hands a prior application for bus services on a similar route, and in accordance with administrative procedures, applications were dealt with in date order. That prior application was finalised in December 2007 and a licence has issued to that operator for the provision of bus passenger services between Greystones and Dublin Airport.

In the case of the service referred to by the Deputy, on the 16 July 2007 my Department was made aware that the operator concerned had commenced the operation of an unlicensed bus passenger service between Dalkey and Dublin Airport. My Department immediately contacted that company and advised that failure to cease the operation of the service in respect of which a licence had not been issued under the Road Transport Act 1932, is an offence under section 7 of that Act. It is also a prerequisite before the making of an offer of a licence that in accordance with road traffic and safety legislation the applicant provides my Department with Garda approvals for all proposed bus stops along the route and holds a Road Passenger transport Operations Licence.

While there is a strong passenger demand for a service between Dalkey and Dublin Airport, my Department would only be prepared to make an offer of a licence to Patton Flyer if that company demonstrates that it would be prepared to operate in conformity with the law.

Why the 141 is needed

The Department of Transport have done the travelling public a great disservice by delaying the licencing of the the 141 route.

Somebody at the Department of Transport’s licencing division should look at the photo above (click for fullsize version) or ideally spend a morning or two travelling on the Swords Road QBC at rush hour.

The picture is taken just after 9, and shows a large crowd waiting at the inbound stop close to the Airside junction, two 41s have just passed with standing loads.

Close to 20 people were waiting at this one stop by the time the next 41 arrived 15 minutes later and squeezed them on as standees. The position at other stops along the road is often similar.

This is exactly the demand that the Dublin Bus 141 route was designed to fulfill, providing a 10 minute even-headway service along the whole of the Swords Road QBC down through Drumcondra, and across the city to Rathmines.

The Department, despite approving the finance for Dublin Bus to buy the lowfloor accessible buses to run the service, has not, after almost two years, granted the licence for them to actually run the service, for fear of offending the private operator Swords Express, who run in common along a short stretch of the route.

Swords Express do not run along the entire Swords QBC, and do not provide lowfloor accessible vehicles, but instead provide a distinctly different and faster service via the motorway and the Port Tunnel.

Why can not two services so different from each other be allowed to operate?

Does the Department of Transport think that bus users are children, incapable of distinguishing between two different routes, and making a conscious choice as to which they want to use?

As can be seen in this photo, after a 41 had been and gone, some passengers chose to remain for the next Swords Express service (nice bus stop branding, but very little on the bus itself to tell you who it is or where its going).

The travelling public are perfectly capable of making this kind of decision, and there is no reason why we could not have alternative services along all the main corridors, with normal stopping bus services, and higher-priced express services offering speed or extra comfort.

There is nothing more pointless in transport terms than a QBC with too few buses, and an unserved demand. This just encourages motorists back into their cars.

WAKE UP Department of Transport!

Is it OK to compete or not?

 41x Tunnel ban to stay.

Interesting piece in the Fingal Independent this week about the Department of Transport’s decision to refuse the application by Dublin Bus to run the 41X through the Port Tunnel.

Apparently it is refused because “it would give rise to competition to an existing licenced service” – i.e. Swords Express.

This is all very well and fine, but if the rationale for the refusal is so simple, why has it taken the DoT a whole year to come up with this response?

Competition with existing services seems to have been allowed in the past – otherwise many of the private operators in Dublin or elsewhere would not have been granted their licences. Indeed, recently a licence was granted to an independent operator to service the Waterford to Tramore corridor.

I am not arguing either for or against such competition here – simply that the Department should make clear its position, and most importantly for the sake of the poor travelling public – deal with such applications speedily.