At Rail Users Ireland (RUI) we love Corporate Communications (CC), the spin division of Irish Rail. They crack us up. Since December, when it became obvious that IE had put in a new timetable without bothering to see if they had drivers to run it, CC has described it's gradual grinding to a halt as due to "operational difficulties". Well, quite. It is, indeed an operational difficulty when you don't have a driver to drive the train.
Your humble blogger got it in the neck on Saturday night from disgruntled of Carlow, who was presented with a bus instead of a train and who had a simple enough question. Where was the refund for being given an inferior product? She paid for a train, she was given a bus. Touché. She, of course was lucky. There have been many since December who have been without even a bus. She had fallen victim to the simple "operational difficulty" which has presented itself to Irish Rail since December. If you're going to insist on bringing in a shiny new timetable, with new departures and services and if you're bringing in new trains to fill them, well, it's kind of obvious that you're going to need drivers. Sadly, Irish Rail management decided to drive the extra services using overtime. This presented a bit of a poser for the drivers who suddenly found that their rotas were now incorporating a lot of overtime and they decided that, well, there are better things to be doing on their days off than working.
Strangely enough, there is also a shortage of Guards, but the absence of people to drive the trains is hiding that fact.
This week we saw the cancellations come to a head as many drivers headed down to the LRC to see how the talks were going - we thought that Corporate Communications would have enjoyed spinning that one but they let us down on this occasion.
Yet again it appears that management in the company is suffering a fundamental disconnect from reality. If it isn't making a mess of the DART refurbishment programme, of the Platform Lengthening Programme, of the DASH 2 project, of the Cork Trains, if it isn't still selling tickets for a bus service it was blamed for killing off, then it's bringing in a new timetable with no drivers to operate it.
The new timetable was launched with much ado last year, along with the new Sligo trains (still not fully introduced and therefore late, never mind poor Rosslare which is still waiting for last autumn to happen) and the media lapped it up. Corporate Communications had a great time. This week RTE showed footage of the new entrance to Pearse Station and mistakenly said it was the tunnel for the DART underground. Corporate Communications haven't corrected this, because it looks as if they are actually building the tunnel, which they aren't, of course. I'd suggest you store that photo, it may be the only tunnel you'll ever see near Pearse. You also have to hope they'll have drivers for it if or when it opens.
There are two sayings that come to mind. One is don't count your chickens (or rather drivers)….. The other is more ironic, given that this driver problem started in Cork and is one made famous by a Mr Keane of Mayfield: Fail to Prepare, Prepare to Fail.
When you're on your bus, or leaving extra early to cram onto a train doubling up or simply driving instead of getting the train you might ruefully recall Keane's phrase. The words brewery, organise and piss up might also occur to you while you're at it.