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Bus too full to take nurse

Wednesday, 29th July, 2020 5:47pm

A woman who looks after the elderly is urging public transport operators to give priority boarding to frontline workers after she had trouble getting to work.

Laura, who works in a nursing home in Cork city, recently had her colleague pick her up in Youghal and drive her to work after she couldn’t board the number 40 Waterford to Cork bus as it was full.

The staff nurse and mother travels to Cork from Youghal several times a week. However, on 21 July, she had the bad luck not to be the first in the queue for the 5.25pm bus adding that the bus stop was crowded with adults and children coming from the local beach.

She told the Cork Independent that she begged the bus driver to let her on, explaining to him that she worked in a nursing home and needed to get the bus so she could begin her shift caring for the elderly.

She said: “The bus driver said he would be breaking the law if he let me on the bus. I am not blaming the bus driver as he was just doing his job but my reason for getting that bus was for essential work. It is not just nurses and other frontline staff who should be given priority but all workers. Those who were allowed on the bus were having fun at the beach but I couldn't get to work.” Laura, who didn't want her surname printed, said that the first two people in the queue were allowed on the 5.25pm bus and claimed that the 6.25pm bus never arrived. She had been liaising with her colleagues in the nursing home that evening about the situation and another employee drove to Youghal to collect her and bring her to work.

She added: “I was late but ‘lucky’ I was only 20 minutes late because (a colleague) was able to bring me to work so I could start my shift.”

Laura said she has a two year old daughter who she left with a babysitter during the height of the pandemic to take care and comfort frail and elderly people and was now questioning where the respect for frontline staff was when she couldn’t board the bus to continue to care for the elderly.

Bus Éireann was contacted about Laura's story and in a statement said: "Currently some Expressway intercity services are unable to satisfy passenger demand, especially at peak travel times including Friday and Sunday. We recognise the frustrations and very real inconvenience and even hardship this situation is causing to some customers and to our colleagues who are doing their very best to manage these situations.

“Bus Éireann advised the public of these constraints on 9 July, has an automated live update on Twitter to indicate when services are full, and has clear information and pop up advice notices on the Expressway website. The issue is arising from the necessary 50 per cent capacity limit set by Government as a public health measure to prevent the spread of Covid-19. In the case of intercity travel, it is exacerbated by the fact that most commercial operators have not yet returned to the road, therefore overall capacity on routes is much less than 50 per cent of pre-Covid-19 levels. Expressway is providing 86 per cent of its pre-Covid-19 services across Ireland.”

The statement continued: “Expressway has operated as a non-subvented service on 18 intercity routes throughout the lockdown with significant effect on the company’s financial reserves. This decision was taken because of the need to provide transport for essential workers during the lockdown – there are 22 hospitals served by Expressway, and almost 250 communities for which Expressway has been the main public transport available since March. All of our available resources (vehicles and drivers) are currently being used. In relation to this particular passenger travelling from Youghal to Cork, it may be useful to know that there is also another Bus Éireann service, Route 260, from Youghal serving the city seven times daily.

“In recognition of the 50 per cent capacity limit, Government guidance is that public transport should only be used for 'necessary journeys' at this time. Bus Éireann adheres fully to all public health guidance. Our drivers and inspectors are not in a position to ascertain whether someone’s journey is necessary or not and we cannot prioritise one passenger over another,” the company said.

 

We would like people to take into consideration that their journey may prevent an essential worker reaching their place of employment, or someone attending a healthcare appointment. Where people can travel at off-peak times, or using alternative means, we strongly encourage them to do so if possible."

Bus Éireann's statement concluded: "Covid-19 has demanded a great deal of everyone in Ireland over the past four months. We welcome the recent Government announcement of temporary funding support and look forward to partnering with key stakeholders to explore ways we can continue to serve our customers. Our frontline employees have shown commitment and dedication in delivering our essential service all over the country. When they prevent someone from boarding a coach, it is because they are working to protect everyone and in accordance with public health guidance. We thank customers for their patience and understanding of the current pressures and encourage people to monitor the @ExpresswayIRE Twitter feed for live capacity updates."

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