A PROTEST regarding the standard of the 343 bus service serving Shannon is to be held at the Town Park at 12 noon this Saturday, December 3.
It is being organised by the Clare Sinn Féin Ógra group and spokesperson Aoife Bennett Murray says they want to draw attention to a long-standing problem.
“People have been looking for the 343 service to come on time and be reliable for years. Mike McKee, the late councillor, was fighting for that before he died,
“Donna McGettigan has been getting onto them. But they’re not listening, they’ve put on a few double decker buses, but people are still saying the buses are coming 25 minutes late, people are losing out on wages, missing classes.
“We’re having a protest and we’d like if a Bus Éireann representative came down to hear people and what they have to say about the whole situation.”
A student of architecture at the University of Limerick, she says she has stopped using the bus service, because it is so unreliable.
“I’ve actually stopped getting the bus. Now I get a lift in because it’s just not reliable. I was talking to someone in the shop just now who said the same thing, he gets a lift whenever he can because you can’t rely on the bus coming on time, you’d have to go a few hours early to make sure you’re on time for your lectures.”
She says that almost everyone who uses the local bus service will have had negative experiences.
“It has inconvenienced nearly everyone in Shannon who gets the bus. We were handing out leaflets the other day at the Town Centre and nearly everyone said the same thing.
“Either they were being left waiting themselves, their son or granddaughter or someone related to them, everyone was having the same issue.”
As well as the delayed buses, there are other problems, she feels.
“I’d say that punctuality is the number one problem. But as well as that a lot of people are saying that there’s no room on the buses.
“They are sending double decker buses but I don’t know if they come all the time, there are still full buses in the morning and that’s a problem.
“The cost then would be the third problem. It’s €10.50 for an adult return and €8.20 for a student return. From Shannon to Ennis or Limerick it’s only a 15-minute car journey.”
She says people in Shannon would be well disposed towards using a reliable and reasonably priced service.
“People do want to use the buses. The majority of young people going to college wouldn’t have a car. You have old age pensioners getting the bus in to do their shopping and they could be waiting an extra half an hour.
“Sometimes the bus doesn’t come at all. I’ve experienced that, when the bus just doesn’t come and you’re left standing there with no notification.”
Aoife says that Bus Éireann haven’t been very responsive to complaints.
“I have written them dozens of emails over the years. I tried to call them the other day but there was no answer. Donna McGettigan was onto them and they said they’d monitor the situation. But we’ve been saying it to them for years, and maybe if we come together as a community and have a united front they’ll have to listen to us.”
In a statement to the Clare Champion, Bus Éireann acknowledged that there are issues with the local services, but said it is working towards making improvements.
“Bus Éireann has seen a very significant growth in usage of the Route 343 service which links Shannon, Ennis and Limerick City.
“We are seeing much increased demand across the country – our passenger numbers are some 15% higher than they were in 2019 nationally.
“This demand is particularly focused in the morning and evening peak times and has resulted in certain departures at peak times operating full on significant parts of Route 343, including Shannon.
“To increase capacity, we have already deployed three double-decker vehicles on Route 343 to ensure the maximum capacity is available – these offer an extra 33 seats per vehicle.
“During the first part of 2023, all other single deck vehicles on Route 343 will be replaced with double-deck vehicles.
“In terms of reliability, there has been an increase in heavy traffic during peak commuter times between Shannon, Ennis and Limerick.
“Congestion means delays to services, and can have a knock-on effect on the vehicle as it operates throughout the day.
“Again, this is an operational challenge we are increasingly encountering and there is very limited bus prioritisation outside of Dublin.
“We work closely with the National Transport Authority to review timetables and make adjustments to improve punctuality and reliability in response to operating conditions.”
Owen Ryan has been a journalist with the Clare Champion since 2007, having previously worked for a number of other regional titles in Limerick, Galway and Cork.