It was most encouraging to see my first copy of CBW or Coach And Bus Weekly slide into my pigeon hole at Clent towers. As my eager fingers peeled back the plastic cover, low and behold, what did I see but two of Go Ahead Dublin’s finest, new, shiny buses, gleaming in the Emerald Isle sunshine. Absolutely marvellous, just what I like to see, Innovation and quality being translated from concept to reality, to good customer service on the streets. And this journey I watched unfurl from the very earliest days, from when the NTA (National Transport Authority) which regulates the bus networks decided to put several routes out to tender that would service mostly rural routes into Dublin City Centre.
Such is my strange world that I was able to engage with chums at Go Ahead from when they were advised that they were the succesful bidders. Then came the interesting bit which was basically creating a brand, spanking, new bus Company from scratch. So it all had to built from the bottom up, first things first appoint an MD, and who better than my good friend Ed Wills. I have watched Ed’s career develop from his earliest days at Southern Vectis, I also recall him coming second in 2009 in the Young Manager Of The Year award at the Uk Bus Awards. I presented the award that year and was also a judge, it was clear to me that Ed was a man to watch and ten years on he is now the main man.
Great to see that people potential shines, and there is a reason why Ed has taken over the reins at Go Ahead Dublin, in many ways this is ground breaking stuff. This model once proved (which I have absolutely no doubt that it will soon add real value, and become the process for the future) can only in my opinion improve the bus package not only in Dublin but across Ireland.
Interestingly when deregulation kicked off in the UK in 1986, Ireland took a different view of having effectively a national state owned Company in Bus Eireann, and Dublin Bus in Dublin. Of course there were many independents but the model remained essentially different from the UK. Indeed some lively chats with Irish chums at uTrack actually suggested that the innovation and entrepreneurship demonstrated by some of the UK groups was long overdue and that the Irish Bus market had been if honest held to ransom by the trade unions who had protected the pay and conditions to such an extent that Irish bus drivers were apparently some of the highest paid in the world, second only to Japan.
Indeed, one of the challenges initially were concerns that it would be hard to recruit drivers as to potential pay discrepancies between incumbent and new operators. To be fair this did not prove to be an issue and Go Ahead were well able to recruit, train, and supply the required service on time for the NTA. It will be interesting to see who else emerges onto the Irish Bus scene from both the UK and elsewhere, but I have no doubts that Go Ahead Dublin will set a very high bar, and that the benefits of new operators into the bus market can only be a good thing. After all, Dublin like all major cities is getting ever more strangled by worsening congestion and like it or not improving bus networks and adding pro bus traffic management policies is by far the cheapest and most effective solution. And of course it just goes to show, Where There Is A Wills, There Is A Way….