Review: Bus Eireann’s new commuter coaches

LD208, one of Bus Eireann's new luxury double-deck commuter coaches, seen at Cavan Bus Station

LD208, one of Bus Eireann's new luxury double-deck commuter coaches, seen at Cavan Bus Station

Over the last few months Bus Eireann has been taking delivery of a fleet of 32 high specification double-deck commuter coaches, designed to provide extra capacity and comfort on medium-distance comuter runs to Dublin from counties Cavan and Meath. The buses, built by Berkhof on DAF chassis, are to three-axldesign to maximise capacity, and indeed seat more on the upper deck alone than the conventional single-deck coaches they are replacing.

But what are they like from the passenger point of view? Our editor took the 4 hour round trip to Cavan to experience the new coaches at work.

Visually, they are very stylish, and make an impression both in terms of design and sheer size. Bus Eireann have wisely decided to steer away from using them as mobile advertising hoardings as with traditional double-deckers, thus allowing the space between decks to be used to show off the company branding to maximum advantage.

The upper deck is bright and airy, with comfortable seating, and fully belted.  Overhead racks are provided throughout.

The upper deck is bright and airy, with comfortable seating, and fully belted. Overhead racks are provided throughout.

The front seats not only feature the best views, but you get cup-holders and the dash is designed for extra legroom

The front seats not only feature the best views, but you get cup-holders and the dash is designed for extra legroom

The seating is comfortable, even on a journey of more than 2 hours, and the belts are easy to use, and accomodate the largest of passengers without feeling cramped.

The front seat give you the real “King of the Road” experience, and unlike many double-deckers, do not suffer from limited legroom, as a special recess has been designed under the dash to give extra stretching room. The safety bar is well positioned below the eyeline, and is padded, and there are even cup-holder recesses in the dash. All the seats feature controls for recline angle, though unusually my front seat seemed to have some sort of built in vibrating bottom massager linked to the braking system – which made sudden stops a very interesting experience, though I am not sure that this is exactly what the manufacturer intended!

Being a double-decker, even the non-front seats gave a vasty enhanced view compared to the blurry hedgerows that is all that can be seen during a normal coach journey. Being able to see over the hedges and across the countryside is no small advantage, and makes a longer journey much more enjoyable. I know that Bus Eireann think in terms of capacity when buying these vehicles, but they should also consider the vastly enhanced journey experience that comes from greater vision for the passenger, and consider introducing these vehicles on a wider range of services.

Climate-wise, the coach was warm as toast, with cool air available via individual blowers if required. The noise level was very quiet, with the engine almost inaudible upstairs.

The vehicle also seemed very nippy, and had no difficulty keeping up with the other traffic on the N3, and will doubtless benefit from the abolition of the speed restriction on double-deck coaches that comes into effect from February 1st 2009.

All in all, a very positive experience, 10 out of 10 for style, 9 out of 10 for comfort, and the only thing missing is wifi.

More please!

More please!

Minister Dempsey on 2009 Transport Spending

AllAboutBuses.com)

Transport Minister Noel Dempsey (photo: AllAboutBuses.com)

GOVERNMENT PRESS RELEASE
Ministers announce €3.6 billion for Transport (Budget 2009)
  • €1.27 billion on improved Public Transport
  • €2.1 billion on National, Regional and Local Roads
  • €40 million on Road Safety
  • €35m for Aviation Sector and development of Regional Airports
  • €48 million for improved activities of Coast Guard and Maritime Safety
Ireland’s Minister for Transport, Noel Dempsey TD, today outlined plans for a €3.6 billion investment package in transport for the coming year following the publication of Budget 2009.
Speaking today Minister Dempsey said; “The €3.6 billion in this year’s transport budget underlines the Government’s continued commitment to investing in key transport infrastructure projects. A word class transport infrastructure is critical to our economy’s competitiveness. This funding will allow me to continue rolling out Transport 21 projects such as Metro North and the new Dart Interconnector, both of which will provide the backbone of an integrated public transport system for Dublin.

With this funding I aim to progress a variety of Transport 21 projects particularly in the area of public transport. Next year I also intend to continue rolling out our major interurban motorways which are now nearing completion.”
Speaking today, Minister of State at the Department of Transport Mr. Noel Ahern TD said; “A total of almost €40 million is being provided by this Government for road safety initiatives in 2009. This level of funding for the Road Safety Authority and the Medical Bureau of Road Safety will solidify the key role these organisations play in implementing the Road Safety Strategy. During the period 1997-2007 for example, we have seen deaths of our roads drop by 30% so this funding will help to augment this welcome downward trend.
The allocation of €48 million to maritime transport and safety will allow us to improve and modernise the Irish Coast Guard and continue to invest in maritime safety.”
The main transport programmes that Budget ‘09 provides for are as follows:
Public Transport – €1.27 billion
This will enable progress on a wide range of projects, including:
  • Luas extensions to Cherrywood, Docklands and Citywest;
  • Planning and enabling works on Metro North;
  • Planning works for the DART Interconnector.
  • Improved bus priority measures in Dublin and the regional cities;
  • The completion of the Middleton rail line
  • Phase 1 of the Western Rail Corridor from Ennis to Athenry;
  • The construction of the Kildare Route project
  • Phase 1 of the Navan rail line;
  • The continuation of Iarnród Éireann’s railway safety programme;
  • The start of the Dublin city centre rail re-signalling programme;
  • Continued roll-out of new railcars on the intercity routes;
Other notable projects that will be continued into 2009 are:
  • The Rural Transport Programme (now operating in every county and will provide more than million passenger journeys in 2009)
  • The Green Schools Programme (targeting 140,000 school kids by providing walking/cycling/public transport alternatives to get to school).
Roads – €2.1 billion
Key national routes will be progressed as planned, specifically:
  • The major inter urban motorway connecting Dublin with Waterford
  • The major inter urban motorway connecting Dublin with Galway
  • The major inter urban motorway connecting Dublin with Limerick
  • The major inter urban motorway connecting Dublin with Cork
  • A dual carriageway road within Northern Ireland transforming access to the North West of the Island.
  • The Atlantic Road corridor
  • The M50 upgrade will be completed.
Over €600 million is being made available to local authorities throughout the country for the upgrade and maintenance of regional and local roads.
Road Safety – €40 million
This funding will be aimed at maintaining the downward trend in road deaths. Deaths on Irish roads have dropped by 30 per cent in the period from 1997 to 2007.
Maritime Transport and Safety – €48 million
This allocation will allow us to improve and modernise the Irish Coast Guard and maritime safety to meet the needs of a 21st century maritime nation.
Regional Airports/Aviation Sector – € 35 million
The Department has made provisions to meet contractual commitments on the various regional airport projects and our share of the cost of the City of Derry Airport development.

Budget 2009 – Transport Spending

Figures released by the irish Government relating to transport spending in 2009.

TRANSPORT

Gross Expenditure for the Department of Transport in 2009 is €3,613 million, a decrease of €160 million (€6 million Current and €154 million Capital) relative to the 2008 forecast outturn. The key policy measures and adjustments associated with these resources in 2009 and later years are as follows:-

PUBLIC TRANSPORT

· capital expenditure of over €900 million is allocated to fund public transport infrastructure. This is about €70 million less than the amount made available in 2008, but it is sufficient for progress on a wide range of projects, including:

Luas extensions to Cherrywood, Docklands and Citywest

improved bus priority measures in Dublin and the regional cities

the completion of the Midleton rail line and phase 1 of the Western Rail Corridor from Ennis to Athenry

the construction of the Kildare Route project and phase 1 of the Navan rail line

the continuation of Iarnród Éireann’s railway safety programme

the start of the Dublin city centre rail re-signalling programme

continued roll-out of new railcars on the intercity routes

planning and enabling works on Metro North, and

planning works for the DART Interconnector;

· in addition, €338 million of current expenditure is provided for the operation of public transport services throughout the country. This is €6 million more than the 2008 provision.

ROADS

· capital expenditure of over €1.4 billion is being made available to the National Roads Authority. This allocation is €157 million less than in 2008, and while progress on some projects will necessarily have to slow down, key national routes will be delivered as planned, specifically:

the major inter urban roads connecting Dublin with the regional cities of Waterford, Galway, Limerick and Cork by end-2010;

the M50 upgrade;

there will also be progress on other key national routes, including the Atlantic Road

Corridor;

· over €600 million is being made available to local authorities throughout the country for the upgrade and maintenance of regional and local roads;

· capital expenditure of €10 million is provided for additional carbon reduction measures to target climate change initiatives in the transport sector;

· as a start to the Government’s commitment to part-fund a dual carriageway road within Northern Ireland transforming access to the North West of the island, a capital provision of €13.5 million is being made available in 2009 towards the planning works for this project;

OTHER

· provision for Regional Airports is reduced by €13 million to €11 million in 2009. Annual provision for capital investment in the regional airports is decided according to estimates of likely drawdowns in the year for specific projects. This can vary from year to year;

· overall, the reduced capital allocation for transport will require some rescheduling of projects. Such decisions will be taken by the Department of Transport and its agencies on a project-by-project basis, taking account of their assessment of priorities within the revised expenditure envelope;

· the impact of the reduced current allocation is being spread across a number of areas and principally involves reduced expenditure on road maintenance.

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.

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”

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!

Patton Flyer expansion to challenge DOT

A pioneering independent bus service challenging the 1932 Act is a thorn in the side of the Department of Transport, but the operator says they only have themselves to blame.

20071001-patton.jpg

Fascinating article in the Irish Times today about plans by the operator of the unlicenced Patton Flyer bus service to expand with further routes. (paid registration required to view)

The service which has been running since last summer is, according to the Department of Transport, illegal, and they have referred its operation to the Gardai, though no action seems to have been taken yet.

Now the operator has announced plans to expand with a further 4 routes being designed, which could turn this minor irritation into a head-on challenge to the current licencing regime.

However Trevor Patton says that his company has attempted to comply with all relevant legislation, and has had a licence application for the original Dalkey service with the department since 2006.

From the Irish Times article:

Referring to the Dalkey route, Mr Patton said: “If there was a good reason why there should not be public transport on that route, then the Department of Transport should have been able to determine that reason in almost two years since the licence application was made.”

With publication of the Dublin Transportation Bill promised in December, January, February, before easter, and now “next month” the chances of the root cause of the issue being resolved any time soon are slim.

Minister Dempsey also promises reform of the bus licencing system, but can’t say when it will happen, telling the Dail recently that While it is not possible at this time to indicate a precise time as to when the legislative proposals on regulatory reform of the bus market will be published, applications for new bus licences and notifications from State bus operators will continue to be processed under the provisions of the Road Transport Act 1932, as amended, and the notification system with reference to the Transport Act 1958, as appropriate.”

Which would fine, if the licences were processed in a timely manner.

But again, like the case of the Swords Express and the Dublin Bus 41X licence application, the Department seems unable to make licence decisions in any kind of a reasonable timeframe.

And the losers, as always, are the passengers.