The impact of Covid-19 on Dublin Bus is laid bare in the State-owned company’s recent annual report. The number of customer journeys declined by 51 per cent to 69.4 million, while its operating revenue was 52 per cent lower at €125.1 million.
These figures are no surpise when you consider the various Covid-19 lockdown restrictions that have been in place since March 2020 and the fact that its buses have been operating with reduced passenger capacity.
And yet the number of kilometers travelled by its fleet of buses was down only marginally to 54 million last year from 55 million in 2019. For much of the time there was a fleet of ghost buses traversing the city.
The company also made a loss of €11 millon on its commercial activities, having to suspend its Airlink and City Tours services, and it is expected to be loss making again this year.
To compensate for the shortfall in revenues, Dublin Bus’s Public Service Obligation subvention from the State trebled to €125 million. It also received €22 million in revenue grants, which were received under the wage subsidy scheme.
The accounts also detail the near €1 billion hole in the pensions operated by CIE, Dublin Bus’s parent company. It’s an astonishing figure.
The bus company’s pension costs last year amounted to €13.8 million, a large sum although down on the previous year’s €15.6 million. The company employs more than 3,500 staff.
A row on how this gaping hole should be closed has rumbled into this year and there is likely to be a long road to travel yet before a viable long-term solution is found. The solution could ultimately be to close the defined benefit scheme, as most of the rest of corporate Ireland has done.