I try not to gripe about things too often, preferring to concentrate on human interest stories that might at least offer in a glimpse of light amongst the grimness of the world we live in today. But I’m not a saint and although I tend to steer well clear of much political comment (I’ll leave that in the capable hands of all you other Sluggerites), I do eventually reach a point where I’ve had enough and yes, need to get it off my chest.
The story first: Last weekend I returned to Ireland from a visit to the Middle East. In itself, travelling is not for the faint-hearted at the moment, especially for someone like me with questionable technical skills, but that’s a story for another day. You would think though, that the process of catching a coach from Dublin airport to Belfast would be the easy part. Well, no actually. In brief: there were dozens and dozens of folk waiting at the bus stop in the freezing cold for coaches that never came/nobody from Translink was there at any time to offer information as to what the problem was/nobody could nip in to buy a takeaway coffee in case the coach suddenly arrived/young children were standing absolutely foundered for hours on end/when a coach finally arrived the situation had become incredibly tense as people with their on-line bookings vied for the attention of the poor bus driver/ two guys beside me squared up to each other and were so aggressive that it was actually very scary/the luggage area in the bowels of the coach resembled a rubbish dump. The thing is – this was not a one-off as I had experienced similar scenarios before on returning to Dublin airport from abroad and many friends have since related similar or worse tales. So, in an effort to salvage some positivity from this depressing scenario, I’d like to offer a few suggestions that I hope Translink will take on board (literally).
First of all, if you really want people to have a good first impression during their visit to a place they have only heard great things about, then you need to have a system that is not only user- friendly and welcoming, but also expeditious and efficient. None of these things are happening at the moment, in my opinion. It needs to start with an easily navigated website and carry all the way through to destination’s end, although I have to admit that once you’re actually on the coach, the journey is smooth and the drivers courteous, capable and skilful.
Secondly, you absolutely need more signage in the arrivals terminal. The way it is (or isn’t) at the moment is lamentably lacking in clear directions for first time arrivals into the country, specifically for bus connections to the north.
Thirdly, please build yourselves a decent shelter where more than four people can at least protect themselves from the vagaries of Irish weather which, even in the summer time, can be wet, windy and cold. My garden shed would offer more shelter than what exists in the bus station at the present time.
Next, display information about delays or cancellations in a clear and obvious way where your passengers can avail of them. It’s the very least you can do for folk who have purchased bone fide tickets and have trusted in the efficiency of your service. Either that or ensure that you have a Translink employee on the ground who can explain any delays or cancellations as they occur. It is worth remembering that most folk will put up with a lot as long as they are kept informed and it is the not-knowing (anything!) that often brings the worst out in people.
I’ve tried to be kind and not make this sound like some sort of personal rant but really Translink, you can do better. The system as it stands for passengers arriving in Dublin and heading north, is woefully inadequate. The poor coach driver who arrived to face the posse of angry, frozen and bewildered passengers last Saturday deserves a medal but he shouldn’t have been put in that volatile situation in the first place. So please, Translink, get your act together. Visitors may be arriving in Ireland in the hope of finding the kingdom of Westeros, but not when they’ve just got off the plane.
Lynda Tavakoli’s poetry and prose are widely published.