Tag Archives: train pain

Bus Boy

Tinman's chariot

Today’s post will fill at least one of my readers with horror.

There are two ways into Dublin from Greystones. There is the DART, our train service, and then there is the bus, the 84, the very name of which will make Jo shudder.

And I’ve given up my monthly Train Ticket and am getting a monthly Bus Ticket instead.

The DART is clean, quiet and reasonably efficient (certainly given Irish Rail’s definition of the word efficient). The journey takes 50 minutes, and because I’m getting on at the first stop I can always get a seat.  The rail line runs along the coast, so that you’ve a sea view the whole way in, apart from the two sections where it runs underneath Bray Head, so that you go through two long tunnels. It is the obvious way to travel.

I’ve been doing it for years, and I hate it. It’s overcrowded, boring and full of girls with really loud ringtones, all with the same name (I know this because they all answer their phone and say “Hello, Amonda Dort”). 

As part of Irish Rail’s improved service this year (and again, only in Irish Rail-speak can a reduction in the number of morning trains be called an improvement) the DART now runs from Greystones every 30 minutes. One  day earlier this month I wanted to be at work at bit early, not half an hour early, so decided that instead of getting the 7.30 DART I’d get the 7.15 bus. Forty-five minutes later I was hooked.

Now I should explain to Jo, who is taking short breaths into a paper bag at this stage, that I am not getting the 84, I am getting the 84X, and the 84X is to the 84 what Eyjafjallajökull is to a scented candle. The 84 is a lumbering behemoth that weaves off the main road into every single bottleneck, picking up passengers in ones and twos at stops set twenty feet apart, like a bin-lorry on bin day. The 19-mile journey takes 90 minutes, and to put this into perspective it only took Apollo 11 three days to get to the moon.

The 84X (the X apparently stands for Xpresso, I think it runs on coffee) stops only at selected stops, and avoids the bigger towns on the way in altogether. At one stage it even travels along the motorway, where admittedly it is overtaken by absolutely everything, including kids on skateboards and grannies forced by sheer swearing frustration into making their first ever venture out of the slow lane.

And, at the time when people actually need to get to work, the 84X is very frequent. There are eight buses in the 50 minutes between 6.50 and 7.40, then one more at eight o’clock. And then, its work done, it vanishes for the rest of the day. It is the Brigadoon of buses.

It’s the same in the evening, there are five buses out of Dublin between 5 and 6.30, then it turns back into a pumpkin.

I ended up getting it most days this month, even though I’d already bought a train ticket, and from June 1st I’m switching full-time. At the moment I’m having so much fun I don’t even read – I sit upstairs, at the front if possible, letting the 10-year old me out again (I haven’t yet made a little hole in my ticket yet and blown into it, trying to make a sound out of it like a kazoo, though I’d love to have the nerve). I’m seeing places I’ve passed for years from a higher perspective, watching mad drivers, gobshite cyclists, lunatic pedestrians. The DART’s sea-view can’t match that, unless one day a Viking fleet hoves into sight. 

So, there you go, a post about buses. You can’t say we don’t tackle the burning issues of the day here at WDB.

The Train Now Standing…

You may have read that there were no trains this morning between Bray and Dun Laoghaire because of a fault in the overhead lines near Dalkey.

This is not strictly true. There was one train, the very first of the day, and I was on it.

As a result I had a most eventful trip to work.

Just about here

Just about here

There were about 30 people on the Dart as it left Killiney and headed towards Dalkey. About half a mile from Dalkey station there was a loud bang and a dragging sound along the roof, and about half the lights in the carriage went out. The train continued for a few hundred yards before silently coming to a halt, right in the middle of nowhere, and the rest of the lights promptly went out as well. The driver came on the intercom and said he would try to find out what had happened, and a minute later we saw him marching back along the far track. It was fairly obvious, though, that this was not a problem that would be solved quickly, and the only issue was not whether the train was going to continue, but rather how we were going to get off it. Sure enough, the driver eventually returned to say that the overhead line was down and that we would have to walk along the line to Dalkey station, and get a bus from there. He told us that ‘de-training’ (Dear God) would commence once staff arrived from the station to accompany us.

About half an hour later we were all led up to the driver’s cabin and helped one at a time down a little set of steps beneath the door which I have to admit I’d never noticed before. When we had all ‘de-trained’ they walked us along the track, telling us all the time to be careful on the stones and sleepers. I was tempted to say that I was ok, I’d walked along here many times. After all, we were in the town I grew up in now, and during my childhood, when there were far fewer trains than there are now, the railway line was one of our many playgrounds.

We reached the station and were directed to the nearest bus stop to get to Dun Laoghaire, from whence trains would still be running (that is the first, and will probably be the only, time that I have ever used ‘whence’ in a sentence). Eventually a single-decker bus came along and we all got on, pretty well filling it at the very first stop. A Chinese lady got on a few stops later and started around her in amazement as she had to stand. “I’m usually the only person on this bus,” she said to me.

Now, you would think that the trains north of the problem would still be running fine, since all they’d to do was tmake the shorter than usual journey out to Dun Laoghaire and then head back in, yet when we arrived at Dun Laoghaire station we found that the next train would not be for another 27 minutes. Rather than stand on the platform for that time I decided to get the 46A bus from outside the station. This, of course, is one of the most circuitous routes in the whole of the city, and indeed the whole of the city is where I felt I’d been when I eventually arrived close enough to the office to get off and walk.

I had driven to the station, been on a train and two buses, walked quarter of a mile along a railway line and more than a mile along different roads, and had travelled during the time-when-no-one-else-is-up, the time-when-people-leave-home-early-to-miss-the-traffic, and finally all-out-rush-hour.

I’d left my house at twenty past five (this is my busy week at work, and I was trying to get in at half-six) and I arrived at the office at a quarter to nine.

 I only live 25 miles away.

Money for Nothing

Most people return to work today after the Christmas holidays. Those who use public transport are returning to average increases of ten per cent, and those who use the DART face increases of 15 to 25 per cent.

train-robbersIarnród Éireann argues “that it applied for the increases because of the economic environment everyone is facing, and says it badly needs the revenue”. Transport Minister Noel Dempsey sanctioned the 10 per cent increase after turning down a 20 per cent claim, and will no doubt pretend (or, even more sadly, actually believe) that he has done a good job for the taxpayer.

Does anyone else think so?

The cost of fuel has plummeted over the last five months. Electricity prices have been frozen for 2009. Public sector pay increases have already been agreed, but only at 3.5 per cent. Commercial rates will be increased, but again not by anywhere near ten per cent. In the current climate it should be possible for a company as large as Iarnrod Eireann to make significant savings in the cost of parts, spares, office costs, etc as companies bid against one another for the business.

So why a ten per cent increase?

Seemingly because bus passenger numbers have fallen by 4per cent, and rail passengers by 1 per cent. Presumably this is because the service is deemed by the public to be crap value. So, instead of trying to entice more passengers by reducing the price and/or improving the service, this government-propped, inefficient white elephant has decided to, and been allowed to, rip-off its existing passengers. Remember, this company already increased some of its short-trip monthly tickets in November. And last summer it introduced paid parking outside its train stations.

And after all this, it will still provide a 1970s service at 2009 prices.

On the DARTs now there are ads encouraging people to use public transport to get to the new O2 Theatre. Good luck with that. After the recent Coldplay concert, Mrs Tin and I had to rush up the Liffey quays, running the last few hundred yards to make the last southbound DART of the day. This is because the last DART leaves at 23.28. In a supposedly modern city in the twenty-first century.

The DART before that is actually the more interesting one. It leaves Dublin at 23.19 and terminates in Bray at 2 minutes past midnight. But the last 84 bus, which could take people from that DART on to the Vevay, Greystones and Kilcoole, leaves from right outside the station door at midnight. But moving the time of either the bus or the DART would involve helping the customer, and that’s not who CIE is run for.

Its drivers got increases when the DART was extended to Greystones & Malahide, and again when longer trains were introduced, though they didn’t have to do any more work. Its signal box drivers sit and watch TV all night, pushing a button every now and again. It has brought in Automated Ticket Checking at Tara Street station, but the same staff as before stand around doing, well what?

And the DART is of course an excellent service compared to the buses. Everyone knows what they are like. Buses that don’t arrive. Buses that leave early. Buses that drive past without stopping.

When the culture of existing for the sake of its staff rather than its customers is as deeply ingrained as it is in CIE, only a fool would think throwing money at it will improve anything.

This is, of course, one of the taxes that we will not all be paying, unlike Brian Lenihan’s patriotic levy. Lenihan himself won’t be paying it. Neither will Noel Dempsey. Or any of the other Ministers in state cars.

And what do the Greens in Government say about all this? Surely they would want us all to embrace public transport, rather than using private cars? Not at all. Like the PDs before them, and indeed Dick Spring’s Labour before that, once they felt the cushiness of a Cabinet seat under their arses, and the weight of a Ministerial salary cheque in their wallets they decided that principles are for losers.

New Year, same spineless Government. God help us all.

What Time Do You Call This

There is a proud sign on the wall at Connolly Station about Irish Rail’s performance for the period June to September. It claims that its Commuter Trains had a 99.1% reliability rating, which is impressive. It also claims a 97.6% punctuality rating, which is almost equally so.

late-trainBut at the bottom of the sign, in considerably smaller print, it defines punctuality as “arriving no more than  ten minutes after its due arrival time”.

Try that at work the next time the boss questions your timekeeping.

Imagine people in other careers operating to a similar definition. Actors in stage plays, for example. Or the pit crew in a Formula 1 race. Or the catching half of a trapeze act.

When I used to play cricket, I found that run-outs were rarely looked at in this way. “Look, Mr Umpire, I know I didn’t get to the other end before the ball hit the wicket, but I shouldn’t really be out, because I arrived within ten minutes of it”.

Apparently price increases are not granted to Irish Rail unless they meet certain standards of Reliability and Punctuality. They could have tried to meet these standards, but they opted for the much more creative idea of panel-beating the word “Punctuality” until it represented the standards they already had.

I think it’s genius.

Park and (be taken for a) Ride

The authors of a report called ”The Climate Change Challenge: Strategic issues, options and implications for Ireland” have recommended that commuters pay an annual levy (of up to €4,500 in Dublin city centre) for free workplace parking spaces. They also suggest “congestion charging might be charged even in advance of major public transport improvements”.



Further on these geniuses, who are not actually named in the Irish Times front page report, estimated that the “travel demand measures would reduce congestion in the greater Dublin area by 12 percent in the morning peak and increase public transport use by 19 per cent”.

I don’t drive to work, so this doesn’t affect me. But it still infuriates me. I’m presuming these guys got paid for producing this crap. It’s a huge waste of money. Firstly because they propose the charges would apply to both the private and public sector, and there’s not a chance the civil servants will agree to it. And secondly because it’s unworkable.

There’s no indication as to where the authors live or work, so I’m guessing they’ve never been on a Luas at peak time, or travelled on the Calcutta-like 5.30 train to Enniscorthy. If they did they wouldn’t suggest increasing public transport use by 19 per cent before making major improvements. Where are the extra passengers going to go? Perhaps we could sellotape them to the roof.

Where I work we have two parking spaces, which the company pays the landlord for. They are kept for the use of clients – in other words we have no free staff parking. How would we prove that? I’m guessing the Council would just charge the company for the spaces anyway. What about larger companies with bigger car-parks, like RTE, for instance. Do they even know who drives to work and who doesn’t?

What happens if you work a four-day week? What happens if you only drive in on Fridays, so you can head home to the country to your folks after work?

The powers-that-be won’t allow high-rise development in Dublin, so there isn’t enough housing available in the city centre. They allowed banks, property developers and builders to drive up the price of housing in the suburbs so that normal people could only afford to live in the arsehole of nowhere (sorry, fellow Greystones residents). And then they rob us blind for living there.

Train robbers

Train robbers

This week Iarnrod Eireann and Dublin Bus both increased the charges on some of their Taxsaver fares. They said it was “due to a combination of increased costs and in an effort to have a consistent pricing structure for the Short Hop zone and for longer distance commuters”. Since it’s only on certain fares, I gather they didn’t have to get permission for it – certainly, I’d heard nothing about it before. The phrase “consistent price structure” is interesting. The Monthly Inner Short Hop Zone ticket, for example, rises from €90 to €103 – an increase of 14 per cent – and brings it to the same €103 that I pay for the Monthly Outer Short Hop Zone ticket. In other words, it will cost the same to travel form Greystones daily to Malahide as from Sandymount to Tara Street.

This is like charging a person who has soup at lunchtime the same price as someone who has a five-course meal with wine “to have a consistent pricing structure”.

During the summer Iarnrod Eireann announced they were going to start charging for using their car-parks. Now they’re targeting Taxsaver schemes, presumably hoping people won’t mind because they’re getting tax relief anyway (not working, two of our staff withdrew from the scheme this week). They will presumably get a big increase from January 1st anyway.

And now there other eejits want to tax people who drive to work.

Just leave us alone.

Train Robbery

It was so obvious it would happen sooner or later. From today’s Indo:

“THOUSANDS of commuters will have to fork out up to €500 a year more just to get to work from September.

Commuters and shoppers will be left counting the cost after CIE confirmed controversial plans for new ‘park and ride’ charges at dozens of railway stations.

The semi-state company has signed a contract with a private parking control and clamping company to introduce ‘pay and display’ parking at 37 stations on the greater Dublin commuter network, the Irish Independent can reveal.

Commuters from as far away as Longford and Gorey will be hit with parking charges of €2 a day, where previously they could park for free.”

This was inevitable once local councils started introducing Disc Parking on the streets around railway stations. CIE obviously feel “well, they’re making money out of it, why shouldn’t we?”

CIE Spokesman Barry Kenny, who at times has the most unenviable job in the world, had this to say:

“The experience shown in other public transport ‘park and ride’ facilities, be they operated by Iarnrod Eireann, Luas or local authorities, shows that commuters are not discouraged from using public transport, particularly with such a low nominal charge,” Mr Kenny told the Irish Independent.

“What we have seen in fact is an increase in the catchment area for public transport — those who live within walking distance of stations leaving their cars at home, freeing up spaces for people from a wider area to benefit from the parking facilities.

“With soaring fuel costs and high parking charges in cities, our commuting costs remain extremely low by comparison.”

If I read the first and second paragraphs correctly, he is saying that people won’t be put off parking there by the charge, but that people who live near the stations have been put off by the charge.

The third paragraph is smart-alec PR-speak. There’s no point comparing the costs against something else, compare them with what they were before. If you pay €103 per month for you rail ticket, as I do, then if my station was one of the ones involved the cost of my travel would increase by 31 per cent. Add the fact that I get tax relief on my rail ticket, and the increase is over 50 per cent.

His comment about the charges for parking at the LUAS are simply not borne out by anyone with any experience of Sandyford Industrial Estate. People do use the car parks there, but only after the council introduced double yellow lines on roads near the LUAS stops, and many businesses in the estate have problems with people parking in their car parks.

It doesn’t take a genius (or I wouldn’t know it) to see that people will simply take to parking on the streets and in the housing estates near the stations. The residents in these areas will then complain to their local councillors, and disc parking will be introduced in these areas. The parking areas will move farther and farther away, and eventually commuters will decide, to hell with this, I’m going to drive.

Has the Transport Minister anything to say about this? Have the Greens in Government any comment?

Doubt it.

Sock it to Me

The guy sitting across from me on the Dart has just set a delightful new record in the “Seats are not for Feet” world championships.

He has taken off one shoe and is resting his socked foot on the seat opposite.

Some poor person is gonna get on in about two stops time, sit there for the rest of the trip to town, and spent the rest of the day wondering why they can smell a vague whiff of feet.

Why are some people such self-centred bozos?