Following a recent tender process Clare Accessible Transport (CAT) has lost the contract for the county’s Transport Co-ordination Unit (TCU). The National Transport Authority (NTA) has decided to transfer the co-ordination of transport services to Limerick Local Link which is based in West Limerick. The result breaks up a very successful model demonstrated as one of the most efficient services in the country according to the NTA’s own report issued in 2018.
CAT appealed the NTA decision. The NTA notified us that the only recourse to appeal is through the high court. This effectively means the NTA tender process denies CAT the right to appeal within our means. As a community based company this put us in an extremely vulnerable position. We ask for your support and give details at the end of this document.
How does the NTA’s decision impact Clare?
- It would mean 7 part time jobs – and potentially 25 jobs - will be lost in Clare.
- Control of the County’s transport co-ordination and planning would go to an agent outside the county severing 16 years’ experience of working closely with Clare County Council, HSE other agencies and the community.
- The decision undermines the ethos and effectiveness of the unique community based bus service established in Co. Clare.
What is Clare Transport Co-ordination Unit (TCU)?
In short the Clare TCU is "the office", the point of contact for all passengers wishing to travel in County Clare using the Rural Transport Program. Passengers call the TCU for enquiries, bookings, changing bookings and general information.
Will I miss it when it’s gone?
This is almost inevitable.
Clare-TCU is the office where local dispatchers take calls for bookings, who know where all our regular passengers are based. They have 16 years’ experience of delivering a flexible and fully accessible bus service to the people of Clare and South Galway. More so they have a knowledge base accumulated over those 16 years with detailed information about every local aspect that is crucial to deliver a personalised service to the people of Clare which is second to none nationwide.
Dispatchers work closely with drivers to make sure the bus diverts to where the people are, facilitating bookings up to an hour before departure.
The dispatchers are the life force, that direct the bus service, look after drivers and, above all, look after the passengers. They are part of your community.
The TCU is the driving force behind Clare Bus, taken away from our community the service will be a shadow of its former self.
In short the success of Clare Bus can be explained by the fact that TCU and "on the road" operations work as one unit, all employees work as one team to deliver the service.
The NTA’s own 2018 report shows Clare Bus as one of the best value for money services in the country.
This NTA report shows that the passenger trips for Limerick cost twice as much and their bus services cost
three times as much as Clare Bus.
On the basis of this report, comparison costs between Clare and Limerick shows CAT’s structure reduces the costs to the Exchequer by in excess of €250,000 per annum.
This comparison demonstrates that the approach of combining the TCU and the bus service in one integrated unit is extremely effective in terms of cost as well as increasing its ability to reach the most isolated people.
Separating the functions will necessarily have an impact on the quality of the service for the following reasons:
- Local knowledge is not available in Newcastle West.
- Short term bookings (up to 1 hour for departure) will not be possible, because the new TCU use a different booking system which does not have a real time online update function for the drivers at the moment. The likely scenario is that passengers need to book at least 1 day in advance
- Doubling the administration overhead by separating the functions and having them handled by two different organisations
- "Standardising" of services may sound good in an office in Dublin, the real-life-effect in rural Clare will be very severe