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.

New Volvos for Mannings of Limerick

Mannings 9700 Prestige Plus. (photo by Volvo Bus)

Mannings 9700 Prestige Plus. (photo by Volvo Bus)

FROM THE VOLVO DELIVERY FILES

Irish operator, Mannings Coaches, has just taken delivery of two new Volvos – a B12B with Jonckheere bodywork and a tri-axle Volvo 9700 Prestige Plus – both firsts for the Limerick based company.

Managing Director, Tommy Manning, had been looking for additional vehicles to handle his luxury touring work – both incoming touring work throughout Ireland and trips to English Premier League football matches on behalf of Celtic Horizon Tours.

“We already have a B12M with Jonckheere bodywork and found that the Volvo/Jonckheere combination was popular with both drivers and passengers,” he explained. “We’d heard excellent reports of the B12B, so decided to give it a try this time.”

Specified with Volvo’s DH12E engine rated at 420hp coupled to the I-Shift gearbox, the new vehicle features full climate control, toilet, TV/DVD player and hot and cold drinks facilities.

Also built on the B12B chassis, the Volvo 9700 Prestige Plus provides optimum comfort along with Volvo reliability from bumper to bumper. The 13 metre coach features the same 12 litre engine, though rated at 460hp, and I-Shift gearbox combination.

The interior’s theatre-style design concept, with its sloping floor and large tinted side windows, enables excellent vision for all passengers. All 50 seats have integral three point seat belts and the ventilation system has high capacity, good air distribution with individually adjustable air-circulation outlet vents for each seat.

Other features include a demountable toilet/washroom, servery, GPS Navigation for both driver and passenger viewing, and Volvo’s Sound and Vision package comprising radio, CD and DVD complete with two TFT monitors and sub woofer speakers.

Tommy Manning explained, “We knew that the 9700 would be perfect for touring, whilst the tri-axle model provides us with extra passenger and luggage capacity yet can still cope with the weight restrictions in England, which is where much of our work takes place.

“With a tour programme as busy as ours, reliability and passenger comfort are equally crucial. We’ve had high expectations of both these new coaches from talking to colleagues in the industry and our experience indicates that they are living up to it!”

A family business with over 40 years’ experience, Mannings Coaches handle a wide range of work including day trips, touring holidays, golfing breaks, airport transfer, schools and corporate work.

B7R for O’Connors of Cork

O'Connors new Volvo B7R - photo by Volvo Bus

O'Connors new Volvo B7R - photo by Volvo Bus

FROM THE VOLVO DELIVERY FILES

O’Connors Coach Hire of Bandon, Co Cork, have just taken delivery of a new Volvo B7R Sideral 10.

The majority of O’Connors’12 strong fleet is Volvo and the operator was keen to try out the newest addition to the range. Cormac O’Connor explained, “We were in the market for a midi-coach, and I personally prefer the coach-built style to a minibus. So when we saw that Volvo were introducing the B7R Sideral 10 we were very interested, particularly as we already have a couple of full size Sunsundegui bodied B7Rs in our fleet. They’re extremely popular with our passengers and we find them very economical to run.”

The 10.3m B7R Sideral 10 is based on the B7R chassis, which is renowned for its versatility, dependability and good economy, as well as excellent ride and drive qualities. Available exclusively with the striking Sunsundegui body, it has been designed for applications where a full sized coach may not be necessary, but where on-board comfort and luggage capacity are still vital.

Specified with Volvo’s Euro 4 compliant 7 litre engine – rated at 290hp – featuring common rail technology and metered fuel injection, coupled to a ZF six speed automatic gearbox, the driveline combination offers excellent fuel economy and driveability.

The restyled Sideral 2000 body boasts full climate control, 43 seats – all with three point belts, a multimedia system, incorporating 15” LCD monitor, GPS navigation system and MP3, RDS radio, CD/DVD player and Bluetooth hands free mobile phone installation, and an ergonomic, comfortable driver’s environment.

The new vehicle is now being used for private hire throughout Ireland and O’Connors are delighted, but not surprised, that it is living up to expectation. “Of course, one of the main factors in our decision was simply that it is a Volvo,” said Cormac O’Connor. “For us, that means reliability, good availability of spare parts and excellent servicing from McCarthy Commercials of Cork.”

Southwest photos

Coaches & Buses in West Cork and Kerry in July 2008, including Bus Eireann, private operators, rural transport scheme and island operations. All photos by Gabriel Conway

VC116 parked in scenic surroundings on the Beara peninsula

VC116 parked in scenic surroundings on the Beara peninsula

The Beara peninsula is one of the lesser-known treasures of Ireland, just as pretty but far less spoilt than the nearby Ring of Kerry. The Cork/Kerry border runs along the middle of the peninsula, with the western end being wholly in West Cork.

For such a remote area, it is well served by public transport, with Bus Eireann services on both sides of the peninsula, a long established private operator on the Cork side, and a well-developed network of rural transport services that reach right to the end, and even out to the largest island off Castletownbere.

The photo above, taken on the southern side, on the road from Glengarriff to Castletownbere, shows Bus Eireann VC116 parked around 4-5km west of Glengarriff. There is often a schoolbus parked at this location, though I suspect that VC116 has been working a regular service.

In the background can be seen Bantry Bay and the Sheeps Head.

VC116 a few miles south of Glengarriff

VC116 a few miles south of Glengarriff

A closer view of VC116 – the VCs are the mainstay of many services in the area, though they are being slowly cascaded to schools work now.

New SC235 departs Killarney Bus Station on the 270 to Kenmare

New SC235 departs Killarney Bus Station on the 270 to Kenmare

Over the many years that I have visited Kenmare, I have seen generations of buses come and go on the Kenmare/Killarney service (these days numbered 270).

In the mid 70s Leyland Leopard E14 was the main bus, with E69 sometimes doing duty as a backup. In the late 70s and early 80s, C27 was the only bus on this service for a long time, until replaced by new KR97 in 1985. This was to be the last new bus that the route received for many a year, as a succession of midlife coaches followed when the KR was eventually relegated to schools. There was a PL for a while in the late 90s, and then VC60 became a regular, up until about a year ago, following which a variety of VCs have been used, with VC109 appearing often.

SC235 is the first brand new vehicle I’ve seen on the route since 1985, and is seen here departing from Killarney Bus Station for Kenmare (irish: Nedin) on an early morning journey.

VC86 waits at Killarney

VC86 waits at Killarney

Also at Killarney, VC86 waits to take up duty on the 040 express service linking Tralee and Killarney with Cork and Waterford.

Spot the door - SP104 parked at Killarney

Spot the door - SP104 parked at Killarney

Also fairly new, SP104 is seen here at the part of Killarney Bus Station closest to the Outlet Centre. These coaches are very sleek looking, and have the most flush fitting doors of any I have seen.

SP108 in the coach parking area near Killarney Station

SP108 in the coach parking area near Killarney Station

Sister vehicle SP108 seen in the coach parking area near the bus station.

Bernard Kavanagh's 06-KK-2534 in Brendan Tours livery

Bernard Kavanagh's 06-KK-2534 in Brendan Tours livery

A variety of independent operators coaches can be seen at Killarney throughout the year, and there is almost always several varieties of Kavanaghs on display!

Galvins VanHool 05-C-7085 heads into Killarney town centre

Galvins VanHool 05-C-7085 heads into Killarney town centre

Galvins of Dunmanway are often seen around Killarney on tour work.

VC28 at The Square in Castletownbere, about to work to Kenmare

VC28 at The Square in Castletownbere, about to work to Kenmare

Back to the Beara peninsula, and VC28 is seen at The Square in Castletownbere, ready for the 1100 departure to Kenmare on route 282. This is a magnificant trip, which involves crossing the mountains to the nothern side of the peninsula and into Co. Kerry, with some spectacular scenery and narrow roads. In the summer, two round trips a day are operated Monday to Saturday, while in winter months a shorter version runs once a week from Ardgroom to Kenmare.

VC28 arrives at Kenmare where VC109 is about to head for Killarney

VC28 arrives at Kenmare where VC109 is about to head for Killarney

An hour an a half later, VC28 has arrived in Kenmare and dropped off its passengers, some of whom will continue on to Killarney on VC109 on the 270.

The buses are seen at the top of the main street in Kenmare, where a dedicated Bus Eireann stop is in place. CIE and Bus Eireann buses have used the main street as a stopping point for almost 50 years, however a local politician has launched a campaign to have the bus stop moved to a different part of town, in order to make 5 further car parking spaces available in the main street.  This despite the fact that the new location would involve considerable disruption for the bus services, forcing them to navigate the one-way system twice for some departures, and would be less convienient for the passengers.

VC109 at the disputed stop in Main Street, Kenmare

VC109 at the disputed stop in Main Street, Kenmare

During the summer, two buses are needed for the 270, so VC109 is working the service as well as SC235 – it will be interesting to see which one is retained for the one-bus winter timetable!

The early afternoon departure that the VC is about to work takes connecting passengers from both the 282 Castletownbere service, and the West Cork 252 route, formerly the 044 expressway.

VP331 arrives at Kenmare on the West Cork 252 service

VP331 arrives at Kenmare on the West Cork 252 service

Since the late 1970s there has been a summer-only service from Cork through Bantry and Glengarriff to Kenmare, until this year always running on to Killarney.

Originally an Expressway service, recently numbered 044, it has this year been downgraded to a stage service, numbered 252, and does not run beyond Kenmare.

When started in the 70s, the route used to take the scenic Molls Gap road to Killarney, though in recent years it has used the quicker Kilgarvan routing. It remains one of the few services in Ireland to operate through a hand-carved mountain tunnell, between Glengarriff and Kenmare.

Buckleys 06-KY-3289 at Kenmare

Buckleys 06-KY-3289 at Kenmare

Buckleys is an operation connected with Kerry Coaches of Killarney. One of their luxury minicoaches is seen here at the triangle in Kenmare.

78-KY-676 a well-preserved Leyland conversion

78-KY-676 a well-preserved Leyland conversion

Here is an interesting and very well-preserved import to these shores. Possibly a former postbus from the UK, this Leyland vehicle now seems to be used as a private camper van, and was in Kenmare for the fleadh weekend at the end of july.

SP18 overnights at Kenmare

SP18 overnights at Kenmare

SP18 seems to be a regular overnight visitor to Kenmare, on CIE touring work.

A pair of minibuses belonging to O'Donoghues of Castletownbere

A pair of minibuses belonging to O'Donoghues of Castletownbere

Back to Castletownbere, and here we see the very long established private operator O’Donoghues, who operate bus services from Castletownbere to Bantry and Cork. Their base is right in the centre of the town, at the main square.

The ferry to Bere Island

The ferry to Bere Island

A few miles off Castletownbere in Bantry Bay lies Bere Island, which is connected to the mainland by two car-ferry services, one of which leaves from the centre of town.

The ferries are very small, and have room for just six cars. The trip out to the island is well worth the time, although reversing down the slipway and up the ramp onto the ferry can be nerve-wracking, particularly when it is at an angle as seen here!

There Bere Island ferry can carry 6 cars - or 1 truck!

There Bere Island ferry can carry 6 cars - or 1 truck!

Trucks are also carried to and from the island, though only one at a time. And buses too, as I was to find out when I arrived out on Bere Island . .

Rural Transport Scheme bus at Bere Island harbour.

Rural Transport Scheme bus at Bere Island harbour.

A Ford Transit minibus of the Bantry Rural Transport scheme is seen at the harbour on Bere Island. Because of the way it was parked against a wall, the only possible front shot was this one, from the ferry slipway with zoom lens!

Bantry Rural Transport provide services on and from the island.

Bantry Rural Transport provide services on and from the island.

The minibus provides transport both on and off the island, with regular services being operated to and from Castletownbere via the ferry, and a twice-weekly evening service to Bantry. This is just one of a network of buses operated by West Cork Rural Transport, with government funding, covering the areas of the Beara and Sheeps Head peninsulas that Bus Eireann do not reach.

Bere Island itself is delightful, with few cars, quiet roads, and a huge amount to see. The size of Manhatten island, it is somewhat less densely populated, though you will find two pubs, a great coffee shop and a resturant as well as other facilities alongside the quiet hill walks and miles of empty laneways.

New Volvos for Rover

Rover's new Volvo B7R / Sunsudegui  (photo by Volvo Bus)

Rover's new Volvo B7R / Sunsudegui (photo by Volvo Bus)

FROM THE VOLVO DELIVERY FILES

Irish operator, Rover Coaches, has just taken delivery of two new Volvos – a 9700 Prestige Plus and a B7R Sunsundegui Sideral 10. Whilst Rover Coaches has been a Volvo customer for a number of years, these coaches are both ‘firsts’ for the Mullingar based operator.

“We’ve admired the 9700 since its launch and were particularly keen on the fact that it is 100% Volvo throughout,” explained John Farrell of Rover Coaches. “We were planning to buy one in any case but when the exchange rate between Euro and Sterling made this kind of luxury such excellent value, we just had to invest.”

Specified with Volvo’s DH12E 12 litre engine – rated at 420hp – coupled to the I-Shift gearbox, the 12.2 metre Volvo 9700 Prestige Plus certainly provides luxury. The vehicle’s theatre-style, gently sloping floor and large tinted windows provide excellent viewing for all 49 passengers. And with full climate control, toilet, servery and Volvo’s Sound and Vision entertainment package – which includes first class monitors and high quality sound system, every comfort for luxury travel is guaranteed.

The vehicle will be used for corporate work throughout Ireland as well as incoming tours on behalf of a number of holiday operators.

In contrast with this full size coach, Rover Coaches’ new B7R Sideral 10 will deliver the same Volvo quality in a midi coach format. At 10.3m, the exclusively Sunsundegui bodied coach has been designed for applications where a full-sized coach is not required.

Specified with Volvo’s 290hp 7 litre engine featuring common rail technology and metered fuel injection coupled to a ZF six speed automatic gearbox, the driveline combination offers excellent fuel economy and driveability.

The restyled Sideral 2000 body boasts full climate control, 43 seats – all with three point belts, a multimedia system, incorporating 15” LCD monitor, GPS navigation system and MP3, RDS radio, CD/DVD player and Bluetooth hands free mobile phone installation, and an ergonomic, comfortable driver’s environment
Rover Coaches will use the vehicle mainly for conference and corporate work, in addition to some touring. John explained, “Because of the amount of corporate work we handle, there is always a place for a midi coach in our fleet, so when we heard about the B7R Sideral 10, we were immediately interested.

“It’s a high specification coach, the build quality is excellent and the rear engine design gives us plenty of luggage capacity. Add to this the fact that we’ve always enjoyed a good relationship with Volvo and excellent service from Irish Commercials, and it means that we have every confidence that both new vehicles will prove valuable additions to our fleet.”

Volvo’s Regional Sales Manager, James Hyde added, “We’re delighted by Rover’s continued loyalty. By providing two very different vehicles, as we have done on this occasion, we have once again demonstrated our ability to listen to a customer’s requirements and provide the solution from our extensive range of high quality products.”

Bernard Kavanagh takes two B12Bs

Photo by Volvo Bus

FROM THE VOLVO DELIVERY FILES

Irish operator, Bernard Kavanagh & Sons has just taken delivery of two Volvo B12Bs with Jonckheere bodywork. Both coaches will be used for touring Ireland and the UK on behalf of holiday operator, Brendan Tours.

Specified with Volvo’s DH12E engine – rated at 420hp – coupled to the I-Shift gearbox, both are configured with just 49 seats and provide every comfort for touring holidays. Passengers also have the benefit of full climate control, toilet, CD/DVD player and hot and cold drinks facilities.

They are not the first B12Bs to join the fleet. “We purchased a B12B Jonckheere a couple of years ago for touring work and have been really pleased with its performance,” explained Bernard Kavanagh.

“The fuel consumption is good, we like the long warranty you get with Volvo and we enjoy great customer service from them – all excellent reasons for going back to Volvo when new vehicles were needed for this contract.”

“We’re delighted to be doing business with Bernard Kavanagh again,” added Volvo’s Regional Sales Manager, James Hyde. “We’re delighted his last purchase proved such a good performer and are confident that the latest additions to the fleet will match up to the high standards we have set!”

Based in Urlingford, Co Kilkenny, Bernard Kavanagh & Sons was established in 1945. Now with a fleet of 65 luxury touring coaches, the company serves nine major tour operators and provide bus and coach chartering within Ireland, to the U.K. and the European mainland.

Butlers choose Volvo/Sunsundegui for first fullsize coach

From the Volvo Bus delivery files: Butlers Buses of Cork have just taken delivery of their first full sized coach – a Volvo B7R with Sunsundegui bodywork. The new coach marks an exciting departure for Butlers who, until now, have only run vehicles with a maximum capacity of 30.

“Our business is mainly private hire with a good mix of contract hire, school services and touring. We were increasingly receiving requests to accommodate larger groups”, explained Managing Director Ian Butler. “We wanted to be able to do that without splitting groups over two vehicles or contracting out, but at the same time we were conscious that investing in a full sized coach was a big step for us and we wanted to make sure we got it right.

“We approached Volvo because they have such a good name in the industry.  We’ve seen plenty of B7Rs in action and knew that operators were happy with them. We also really liked the look of the Sunsundegui body and felt it created the right impression. And when a colleague in the industry took me on a test drive of his own B7R Sunsundegui, I knew it was the coach for us. What’s more, the favourable exchange rate between the euro and sterling meant now was a great time to buy”

Specified with Volvo’s D7C 7.1 litre, 290hp common rail fuel injection engine, coupled to the ZF six speed gearbox, the 12m B7R has 53 seats plus courier seat, double glazing and full air-conditioning. It will be used for a range of work from airport, ferry and train transfers to scenic/golf tours and private hire.

“We’ve already had a great response from customers keen to take advantage of the larger capacity,” added Ian Butler, “and we have plenty of advance bookings for the new coach. I’m now keen to get it out on the road so it can start earning its keep!”

Family run Butlers was established 41 years ago by Ian’s father. Their modern fleet provides a range of services from local coach hire to touring throughout Ireland and into Europe.

Dualway continues to develop

South Co. Dublin independent Dualway continue to expand and develop their fleet, with new service, city tour and coaching vehicles being added. Their older fleet is also of interest.

Above: 08-D-30, the first 08-reg decker to go into service in Dublin. (click on any photo for fullsize version). Dualway were the first to run lowfloor accessible buses on the city tour, and add at least one new lowfloor opentopper per year. This year’s delivery, an East Lancs bodied Volvo B9TL is the first to feature visual commentary for the hard of hearing, and to include Irish in the choice of languages on multilingual tours.

Above: Former Dublin Bus Olympian RA257 is retained in closed-top format for the time being, but may be open-topped later in the year.

Above: ex London United RML2720 is under conversion for special operations / publicity.

Above: 99-D-28988, an East Lancs Volvo Olympian used for private hire and tours, including contract work for Coca Cola.

Above: Dualway’s continued expansion has resulted in a need for further depot space, and a substantial extension to the parking area at the Rathcoole depot has recently come into operation, currently used to store the older “classic” members of the fleet, and recent acquisitions, making space in the main area for regular operational vehicles.

Ex-Dublin Bus RA299, recently acquired and awaiting overhaul or conversion, is currently stored in this new part of the depot.

Circle Line victim of . . who?

The closure of Circle Line this week is making lots of news headlines. But the real issues are not being debated.

Newspapers and radio have been alive with the tale of Circle Line Bus this week, which has gone into liquidation with the loss of 20 jobs, blaming unfair and predatory tactics by the state run Dublin Bus operator.

Circle Line, a joint venture between Mortons Coaches of Rathfarnham and Bartons of Maynooth, operated services from south and central Dublin to Lucan and Celbridge. Originally launched in the late 1990s as a peak hour express service, a move to frequent all-day operation was made in 2007.

According to co-owner Paul Morton, up to 11,000 passengers a week are using the Circle Line service, which will cease after close of business on Friday 27th June. Mr. Morton told AllAboutBuses that it was “impossible to continue operating in the face of saturation tactics by Dublin Bus” who he accused of “flooding the area with buses paid for by the taxpayer, and using these buses to force us off the road”.

“Since we started our all-day service there has been a marked increase in the number of Dublin Bus vehicles running before and after our departures” Mr. Morton said, claiming that surveys conducted by his staff showed the state run operator providing a bus every two minutes along some sections of his routes.

In a muted response, Dublin Bus has said that its services in the Lucan and Celbridge areas are “fully compliant with Department of Transport service authorisations” and that the company remained “fully confident that our actions are entirely lawful”.

Meanwhile a spokeswoman for Minister for Transport Noel Dempsey said he regretted the Circle Line decision and that he had written to Dublin Bus on numerous occasions regarding allegations of anti competitive behaviour on some Circle Line routes.

Mr. Morton told AllAboutBuses that all holders of prepaid smartcards for his services would be fully refunded, and that he would be doing his best to offer some of the affected bus drivers alternative employment at his other company, Mortons Coaches.

According to Mr. Morton, in the year to December 31st, Circle Line recorded losses of €160,000. It had invested more than €3.6 million in a fleet of new single-deck MAN buses in April 2007 to increase the frequency of the service and Mr Morton said he was considering legal action to recoup this.

A spokesperson for the Coach Tourism and Transport Council (CTTC) which speaks for private bus and coach operators, told us that the closure of Circle Line was very regrettable, and highlighted the unfair and unequal situation in which private operators found themselves competing with buses which had been supplied with government funding for their state run competitors.

The issue of Government funding for the state run bus operators is currently the subject of a complaint lodged by the CTTC with the EU Commission.

On the face of it, this closure will add weight to the EU complaint, and cannot do anything but make the operational environment more difficult for Dublin Bus when it approaches the Department of Transport for future licence or timetable change requests.

What’s disappointing in all of this is that the role of the Department of Transport has been barely mentioned in the news coverage, despite the fact that their hand lies heavily on the shoulder of both Dublin Bus and Circle Line, controlling what services can be operated by both companies, and crucially, failing to introduce the integrated ticketing promised for all operators long ago, which would have removed at the stroke the single largest disincentive on passengers to use Circle Line buses – the fact that only Dublin Bus offer tickets that can be used on buses throughout the whole of the Greater Dublin Area.

The irritation felt by Paul Morton and many of his colleagues in the private sector about “taxpayer funded buses” is compounded by the fact that every new bus he sees on the local Dublin Bus routes carry stickers asserting that they are funded under the Transport 21 project. In fact, only a small number of buses purchased in recent years are taxpayer funded additional buses, but Dublin Bus is required to display the T21 sticker on all of them, for the greater glory of their political masters.

And so, to Paul, every Dublin Bus is a free bus, whereas in fact, the majority are paid for out of operating revenue – your bus fares and mine.

Denied access to government grants, taxpayer funded bus stations, infrastructure and integrated ticketing, the playing field is indeed stacked against the Circle Lines of this country.

But it is the Department of Transport, not Dublin Bus, who have the real questions to answer . . and those questions are not even being asked.

More Volvo 9700s for Callinans

Callinan Coaches of Claregalway have just taken delivery of five new Volvo 9700 Prestige Plus coaches, two of which are in the 13m tri-axle configuration. So impressed is the Irish operator by Volvo’s flagship vehicle that the longer term plan is for the entire fleet to consist of 9700s!

“We’ve been running 9700s for two years now and as well as being delighted with their performance, we can honestly say that they are the most comfortable coaches on the road,” said Managing Director, Tommy Callinan.

“We’ve had excellent feedback from our passengers who feel they are truly travelling in complete luxury and our drivers love them too. The vehicles have clearly been designed with driver requirements in mind so that everything they need is easily to hand and, of course, the I-Shift gearbox is a real bonus.

“From our point of view, we love the fact that we are dealing with just one supplier and who better than Volvo?”

The new Volvo 9700 Prestige Plus is specified with the popular Volvo DH12E engine – rated at 460hp – and I-Shift gearbox combination. Enhanced safety features include Front Underrun Protection (FUPS) which prevents a car being wedged underneath the coach in the event of a frontal collision, along with Front Impact Protection (FIPS) and Knee Impact Protection (KIPS) which protects the driver in the same. The latest generation Electronic Braking System (EBS) with its Electronic Stability Program (ESP) promote controlled braking and road holding, for a safe, smooth ride.

The 9700’s distinctive and stylish front end and interior detailing create an overall feeling of luxury, space and comfort. The theatre-style flooring ensures that all passengers (53 on Callinan’s tri-axle coaches and 49 on their standard length vehicles) have excellent viewing, while the climate control, servery, toilet and Volvo Sound & Vision entertainment system – comprising CD, DVD player and TFT monitors – mean that every comfort is guaranteed.

The Volvo 9700 driver’s area has been designed to provide an excellent overview and enhanced control, whereby the instruments are easy to monitor with a comprehensive, yet clear, information display panel in the middle of the main instrument binnacle. The instrument panel itself has gently flowing lines and logically positioned controls, whilst large window areas and rear-vision mirrors, with integrated wide-angle mirrors, provide the driver with excellent visibility throughout the vehicle.

All five new 9700s will be used mainly for touring work throughout Ireland, Britain and Europe. In addition to touring, the new coaches will also undertake regular express work on behalf of Bus Eireann.

“We’ve every confidence in the new coaches through our experience with the previous vehicles,” says Tommy Callinan. “Our aim is to provide the best in coach travel, and by investing in the 9700 we have the fleet to ensure we are doing just that!”

Established in 1995, Callinan Coaches specialise in luxury coach travel with services ranging from quality guided tours to golf transfers, corporate travel and UK and continental tours.

The Invisible Bus

Government just can’t see the bus as a transport alternative, and often, neither can the travelling public, even if it’s right beside them.

There is quite a debate over on Garaiste at the moment about bus-v-tram choices, especially on the corridor from Heuston station to the city centre. The thrust is that both officials, and often the travelling public themselves, often ignore the bus as a viable alternative for travel.

The picture above (click on it for fullsize version) was taken by me one morning at Heuston, when disruption to the Red LUAS line was causing long gaps in service. Passengers were crowding the platform and had been waiting for nearly 20 minutes, with no sign of a tram coming, and yet buses on the 90, 91 and 92 routes were coming and going behind them almost empty.

Look at the picture closely. See how intently the people are peering up the track, anxiously waiting to see if a tram will appear in the distance. if only there were some other way for them to get into town . . .

I actually submitted this photo to a display at a photo club at work, with the caption “It’s Behind You!!”

There is talk of the bus services duplicating the Red Line from Heuston being cut back, which would be a great pity, because it is always good to have an alternative.

The bus does seem to be almost invisible in the minds of the casual travelling public. I was listening recently to someone who works in a business in Loughlinstown advising someone how to get there from Bray.

“There is no public transport link, so you’ll have to take the DART to Shankill and get a taxi from there” they were told . . .

No mention of the 45, 145, 84 which between them provide direct links from most parts of Bray to outside the door of this business, and which provide a combined frequency of less than 10 minutes from the centre of Bray.

Likewise the oft-heard claim that “there is no public transport link to Citywest” when in fact the business park is linked by more than half a dozen bus routes, including city centre services, local routes, commuter services from Co. Kildare, and LUAS shuttles, operated by a number of different companies.

The bus can be a great transport workhorse, and a vital backup to rail services during times of disruption, but we have to think of a way of opening people’s eyes to the services that are already there.

Any ideas?

Pics around the N18 / Shannon

An evening ramble out the N18/19 from Limerick to Shannon Airport.

I’ve been based in Limerick for the past few days, attending a work-related training course.

Surprisingly I have seen nothing of the Bus Eireann city fleet, despite the fact that I have to cross the city from Ennis Road to Raheen every morning – the particular route I taken has no local service, even though the N69 out of the city passes through many industrial areas.

So, bored in the hotel this evening, I decided to take a spin out the Ennis Road in the Shannon direction, to see what I could see.

An Ayats / DAF touring coach at Twomilebridge, parked in a roadside hotel.

Shannon Airport was empty at just after 7pm, and the sun was in any case very badly positioned for the main bus stops, so I didn’t wait around. I did however manage to snap this car=park shuttle bus, operated by a local independent under contract to the Airport Authority.

Another Solo – these are becoming quite popular in Ireland these days!

On my way back in, I called in to Bunratty, where the Castle & Folk Park are a big draw for coach parties.

In the car-park, a UK-based Setra on Globus tours sits beside Bus Eireann’s new SP119 which is in CIE Tours livery.

Rear/Side view of SP119, showing the new livery on this years CIE Tours deliveries.

Also at Bunratty was this Vanhool T915, operated by Cronins of Cork.

Flybus launched by Minister

Transport Minister Noel Dempsey has officially launched the new FlyBus service linking Tallaght with Dublin Airport.

(left to right: Tony McConn of Dualway, Paddy Kavanagh of Eirebus, and Transport Minister Noel Dempsey cutting the ribbon to launch the new coach link)

Two of the Republic’s best known independent operators teamed up today to launch a new jointly operated service providing a high quality coach link between south county Dublin and Dublin Airport.

Dualway Coaches and Eirebus have worked together to start the new Flybus service, which will provide an hourly link between Tallaght, Clondalkin, Liffey Valley and the Airport via the M50 motorway. The service runs from 4am to 9pm.

3 new Mercedes Plaxton minicoaches fitted with 29 reclining seats will provide capacity for up to 8000 passenger journeys a week, and plans are in hand to further develop the service, according to Dualway Coaches founder Tony McConn.

“We have an initial investment in the service of nearly one million euro and have created 10 jobs, and we may increase frequency and could create another 10 jobs by the end of the year”.
Officially launching the service, Transport Minister Noel Dempsey paid tribute to the two operators as showcasing the finest that the private sector can offer, and said he was proud to be associated with the launch.

“As politicians we like to be associated with excellence, and that’s one of the things that you can say about the two operators involved in this venture, Dualway have won numerous awards for excellence, they are a serious company, a family run company who know what they are doing, and Eirebus who have many many years experience operating coach services are another fine example of the private sector”

Airport Solos

The Optare Solo is a classy fully-accessible minibus, which has started to appear in Ireland in recent years.

I’ve always liked Optare‘s buses, particularly the double-deck Spectra, and it’s a pity they never really caught on.

The Solo minibus is probably their best-selling product, a fully-accessible lowfloor bus, designed from the outset as a bus, and way more stylish than the van-derived minibuses offered by most other manufacturers.

For a long time there were no Solos in the Republic, but they can now be seen in increasing numbers with private operators on shuttle services, or town services outside Dublin (Port Laoise being one example).

Hertz at Dublin Airport have some very smartly liveried Solo buses for their shuttle service (above) while Bewleys Hotel have one in a less impressive livery to bring guests to their door.

I’ve often thought that buses such as these would be the ideal solution for Dublin mountain routes such as the 44B and 161, and they would also be ideally sized for the Palermo service in Bray.

Sadly, Dublin Bus do not seem to see their potential.

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!