As any college student would know, the way to break the ice and make new friends won’t come about by discussing drink or the rise in the price of drinks. The guaranteed conversation starter is Ireland’s golden boy for transport – Bus Éireann. There is no way a college student cannot be touched by the deadly fumes and the cramped spaces of the bus service.
When Bus Éireann enters the conversation, the topic of late and disappearing buses follow. As a young person relying solely on their leap card to get anywhere, I have more than once witnessed the confused faces of tourists as they assumed they were at the wrong stop because the bus has not arrived as the timetable specified. Another way (‘special’ way) that Ireland is a snowflake country when it comes to standards for its citizens.
Hint of rant for change over.
In the run-up to Christmas, the angry passengers of Bus Éireann’s sub-par services demanded an improvement in the time-keeping and reliability of buses. And now here we are in the early days of an improving bus service thanks to petitions, social media influence and information posters hung up in the freezing weather. But are we forgetting something? Is Bus Éireann’s consistent lateness merely a distraction for what is going on inside the buses?
Two weeks ago, a video circulated Facebook feeds across the country of a Cork bus driver endangering the lives of his paying passengers and the lives of people using the streets around him by driving the bus with his elbow, his attention fixated on his phone. This illegal act garnered 15k views.
The most recent issues from inside the bus arose from passengers of the 233 having to transfer buses due to the condition of the seats. Photos featured on thejournal.ie showed fungus growing on every tattered red seat. What makes this story more disturbing is that it was the passengers who had to bring the issue forward to the driver in order to transfer from the health-hazardous bus.
Another topic that is left out of conversations about Bus Éireann is the passengers and the mentality that has formed over time on the bus. When going for the bus, the words morals, queues and consideration do not exist. There are two ends to the bus experience, on one end, people are not giving up their seats for the elderly and on the other end, we are starting to see a surge in the number of assaults shared by passengers on social media. I have reached out to Bus Éireann for comment on this issue, but they have yet to get back… more than two months later. I cannot devote a single paragraph to explaining this issue and reporting cases because it is more than just a footnote.
A lot of the time I wonder what I am truly paying €1.96 for when I take the bus going to and from college. In the overpacked conditions of the bus, passengers get away with violating ‘rules’ that drivers cannot be bothered to enforce such as no eating, no drinking and no smoking. I have on a regular basis had to breathe in the fumes of e-cigarettes and breakfast rolls. But nothing churns my stomach more than when a can is popped open or a bottle is slurped in clear view of people of all ages with different life experiences.
However, I do not need to interview or speak to anyone, to report on the most casual offender and eye-sore to my journey, the driver. Speaking from experience, on Grand Parade I got the f-word screamed in my face when the driver had to reopen the door for me. Then he yelled another loud enough to pop my eardrums when secondary school girls formed a queue behind me to get on the bus. Too stunned and accepting I did nothing but take my seat and watch the driver rush to South Mall to end his shift.
It is only fair that I mention, that I have had good experiences with drivers and none of them has had an Irish accent. A foreign sounding driver had the patience and good-humour to show me how to use my first leap card when I was confused. Which (I hate to assume someone’s origins but I am going to anyway) shows the stark contrast between Ireland’s workers and the rest of the world’s.
This is probably not the last feature on Bus Éireann I am going to write. I will end this instalment with a request to fellow passengers of Bus Éireann to question and not accept what we are given on the inside of the bus as the norm.