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Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Over the Irish Sea

On Tuesday I was in Dublin which I have been commuting to and from since 2003 when I acquired Aircoach for FirstGroup.

Maybe it was the nice weather bit there seem to be some signs of improvement in the economy with busier shops, more tourists and certainly more activity on the industrial park where we are based.

In my eight years of regular visits I have witnessed how this economy has shifted from one of huge growth, into one which suffered 6% deflation and now a new Government which is facing some harsh economic decisions.

Right in the middle of this we have the new Terminal 2 at Dublin Airport which is an outstanding building but sadly lacks any proper information or facilities for passengers wanting to use any public transport including our frequent luxury coach services into the City, the suburbs and to Cork. In addition the road network has made it difficult to serve both terminals without protracted loops around the airport's road system. A reminder how critical it is to involve public transport operators whenever there are plans for new residential, business or retail projects so the journey experience is a good one.

I see in at least one of the magazines it is being wondered whether my arrival of TfL will bring forward one of my frustrated ambitions which was to deploy 3-axle double-deckers into the capital. This was my plan for route 29 in 1992 and whilst our bid failed we did secure nearly the entire Walthamstow network from London Forest so we weren't unhappy.

Well Dublin uses an increasing number of tri-axle double-deckers on its services They clearly do move significant numbers of people in an ordinary city environment. They also manage with only one door as well. However that might be about to change - the new National Transport Authority is seeking to acquire new vehicles as they make progress to more liberalisation of the transport network. Their intention is to own the vehicles so that at some point in the future contracts might be awarded to the private sector. However it reintroduces the vexed issue of two-door operation in Dublin which was for very many years 'blacked' by the Trade Union until in the event only single-door buses were purchased.

Here is a case where the company and its labour relations is behind the times. It is, for certain, the job of the transport professionals to determine whether the buses need two doors on the basis of whether it is justified in terms of speed and convenience. Multi-door vehicles are widely used around the world including in London and millions of passengers use them every day without incident.

Greater liberalisation in this market has been on the cards for some time and lets hope the new Government pushes it along some more.

Which brings me back to the start - perhaps you have already picked up on the good work done by a company called U-Track. Not only are they nice people but they are cleverly providing a service which picks up any GPS feed and marshalling the data so operators can have excellent real time information and passengers can have it on their smart phones too. What makes this different from other products is that it does NOT involve fitting another box with another SIM card on your vehicle.

If you want to see a working example of this pioneering project take a trip over to Dublin Coach or even better download the App for your iPhone. You'll see good real time information for their service and other helpful information including links to flight times and so on.

Another pioneering project from Dublin Coach owner John O'Sullivan who also invented and launched Aircoach before selling it to us in 2003.

John bought a fleet of Setras for Aircoach before he sold it and some 20 of them remain. They are all well over the 1 million km mark and doing well. Normally they are blue but this is a wrapped advert one in black.


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