Private operators busy as bus strike threatens to escalate

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PICKET: Bus Eireann staff on the picket line at Sligo bus depot. Photo: Alan Finn.

Private bus operators serving the Sligo area have reported being inundated with calls from people seeking alternative transport since the Bus Eireann strike began last Friday.

And there were threats yesterday, Wednesday, that the dispute could escalate to involve other CIE companies, such as Iarnrod Eireann and Dublin Bus.

The school transport service could also be affected.

Fureys Coaches in Sligo, which operates a regular service to and from Dublin on Fridays and Sundays, as well as coach and mini-bus hire, have had a lot of calls since last Friday.

“There have been a lot of people on, the phones have been very busy”, a spokesperson told the Sligo Weekender yesterday, Wednesday.

The spokesperson said that if the trains were off as well there would probably be a lot more people calling on them to try and get to Dublin.

The Sligo-Dublin train service resumed after a temporary stoppage on Friday. Although Irish Rail is not involved in the dispute, railway staff in Sligo did not pass pickets at the bus depot on Friday but services resumed on the following days.

Fureys do not operate on the other main Expressway service through Sligo, from Galway to Derry, but a regular service on that route is run by Donegal-based Feda O’Donnell.

They say they have had a lot of extra passengers and have been putting on extra buses to deal with the demand.

But despite the private services a lot of people have been badly affected by the lack of Bus Eireann buses, not just on the Expressway routes, but on local services, such as Strandhill to Rosses Point and other towns in Sligo and Leitrim.

The local service in Sligo town has also inconveniced a lot of people, particularly elderly people.

Bus Eireann staff on the picket line in Sligo have said that it is not a place that they want to be but they feel they have no alternative.

They are hoping for a quick resolution of the dispute but yesterday union leaders nationally were warning of the action escalating.

Dermot O’Leary, the general secretary of the National Bus and Railworkers Union (NBRU), claimed the Government and CIÉ are running the risk of bringing the entire transport network to a halt.

“Come this weekend if this dispute is on, it will be even more difficult,” he said.

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