Rail chaos to continue as union talks deadlocked
Irish Examiner: 17 May 2006
By Michael O?Farrell, Paul Kelly and Mary Regan
TENSE talks between union officials and drivers engaged in the wildcat rail strike were continuing last night as the cost of the stoppage spiralled into millions.
Failure to resolve the dispute will leave rail passengers throughout the country facing another day of travel chaos today.
Last night, officials from SIPTU and the National Bus and Railworkers? Union remained engaged in talks with independent mediator Phil Flynn and representatives of the Locomotive Drivers? Committee in a bid to convince more than 60 drivers to return to work.
However, with management at Iarnr?ireann refusing to even enter talks until drivers resume work, there appears to be little prospect of a straightforward resolution.
More than 35,000 passengers were again affected yesterday when trains to and from Dublin to Cork, Kerry, Galway and Mayo were cancelled. In addition, thousands of commuters working in Dublin and Cork were late or unable to turn up for work altogether as commuter routes also shut down.
With each day, the cost of the dispute is mounting considerably.
On top of the ?500,000 in ticket sales being lost daily by Iarnr?ireann, a wide range of other businesses are also reporting losses with some closing temporarily.
The group representing small and medium businesses, ISME, said some companies were facing the possibility of going out of business as the cost of the stoppage runs into millions.
?We are extremely concerned that a limited number of individuals can hold train users to ransom. Overall, it has been very disruptive from a business point of view,? said ISME?s head of research Jim Curran.
Mr Curran said that in addition to problems with absent staff, companies were facing significant disruption of delivery and supply chains.
But potentially the most devastating long-term impact of the strike could be in tourism where already hotels are reporting a large number of booking cancellations.
Irish Hotels Federation (IHF) members yesterday estimated that ?150,000 worth of bookings a day were being cancelled and there are already question marks over a number of large conferences planned for this weekend.
Meanwhile, political condemnation of the 60 drivers now refusing to work continued, with Fine Gael transport spokeswoman Olivia Mitchell accusing them of two days of ?self-indulgent and irresponsible petulance?.