Iarnród Éireann defers plan to increase DART frequency

Thursday 21 January 2016 22.48
SIPTU and the NBRU currently balloting for industrial action
SIPTU and the NBRU currently balloting for industrial action

The threat of industrial action on the DART rail service has receded after Iarnród Éireann deferred the implementation of a ten-minute frequency on its DART services.

SIPTU and the National Bus and Rail Union are balloting for industrial action over the company's plan to implement the service, which had been expected to take effect from 31 January.

The result of the ballot is due tomorrow.

However, Iarnród Éireann has now said that revised Connolly Station schedules, including the ten-minute DART frequency, and revisions of Intercity and Commuter services will not be implemented until Sunday 10 April.

In a statement, the company said that it and the National Transport Authority are reviewing customer feedback from public consultation in order to finalise a schedule.

Iarnród Éireann said the public consultation process had almost 2,400 submissions in December.

In addition, Iarnród Éireann and Translink are reviewing the feedback in both the north and south in order to finalise schedules for the Enterprise rail service.

The company said it is also developing what it called "enhanced service plans" to cater for demand for the St Patrick's Festival and the Easter 1916 centenary celebrations, in cooperation with other public transport providers, event organisers and the NTA. 

It said the general Connolly service revisions will take place following those events.

Existing schedules will continue up until Saturday 9 April, with the exception of service arrangements for the St Patrick's and Easter celebrations.

Iarnród Éireann proposed increasing the DART weekday frequency from every 15 minutes to every ten minutes because passenger numbers grew by 8% in 2015, with passengers taking 17.2 million journeys.

However, unions had argued that the frequency could not be operated within existing resources and involved productivity issues.

Asked about the deferral of the ten-minute DART service, General Secretary of the National Bus and Rail Union Dermot O'Leary said the deferral created a window of opportunity for talks to resolve the row.

He urged the company to engage with unions on the basis of a previous Labour Court recommendation. 

He said the last thing a Dublin-based transport minister would have needed before an election was a DART dispute.

Mr O'Leary went on to say: "Our members have been telling us that the Company had not properly prepared for the 10 Minute Dart Service."

Luas management and SIPTU to attend Workplace Relations Commission talks

Meanwhile, Luas management and SIPTU will attend talks at the Workplace Relations Commission tomorrow aimed at averting four strike days in February in a dispute over pay.

Luas staff members are seeking pay rises of up to 53% in some cases, which they believe will bring them in line with heavy rail drivers in Iarnród Éireann. 

Their employers, Transdev, who have the contract to operate the Luas, say they cannot afford the increases, which would add €6m a year to their pay bill.

Transdev also said it lost €700,000 last year.

The company added that even where passenger numbers rise, under the operating contract they do not get to keep the passenger revenue. 

The SIPTU Luas stoppages are set to take place on Thursday and Friday 11 and 12 February and on Thursday and Friday 18 and 19 February.

If the industrial action proceeds, it will disrupt travel for 90,000 Luas passengers each day. 

Separately, unions at Bus Éireann are balloting for industrial action amid fears about a root and branch review of the company's Expressway.

The service has come under pressure due to the allocation by the National Transport Authority of additional licences to private operators. 

The ballot result is due on 1 February.

Bus Éireann has confirmed it is examining a range of measures to reduce costs in order to deliver the profitability necessary for the viability of the company. 

However, no proposals have yet been put to the board.

Bus Éireann said any potential new arrangements would be dealt with through consultation and collaboration with all stakeholders.