In January 2021 I asked Limerick Council to urgently request a meeting with the National Transport Authority (NTA) on the Limerick public bike scheme. This meeting request was due to years of poor service, unrideable bikes and general unreliability. I have previously written about why I believed the scheme to be failing. To clarify, Limerick Council does not operate this scheme. The public bike scheme in Limerick, Cork and Galway are all managed by the NTA and they contract the running of the scheme to a company called Telfourth, trading name An Rother Nua.
After requesting a meeting with the NTA on the scheme every month last year, Limerick Council finally secured a meeting, 11 months after I placed my original request. I will start off by saying I believe this wait was on purpose as it was clear the NTA had no desire to meet with Councillors to be asked questions on this scheme. The public bike scheme costs Limerick tax payers €1.1 million /year. That Limerick Councillors had to wait almost a year for a meeting on this is incredulous. It highlights just how poor the oversight is for this scheme.
I would also like to highlight that I don’t believe this meeting would have happened if I did not doggedly persist for it through Limerick Council. I would like to thank Limerick Council staff for their persistence on this in my behalf also. I would like to also thank Cllr Sharon Benson, Sinn Fein, for all her support in helping me in my pursuit for answers regarding this public scheme.
Below are the questions I asked the NTA on the public bike scheme and the responses I received. I am posting these without comment, along with slides from the presentation we received. I would welcome any comments or questions from users of the scheme and/or elected representatives in Limerick, Cork and Galway on NTA responses.
Q.The NTA and Telfourth have cited vandalism as a cause for bikes being unavailable in Limerick. When I have asked before in relation to poor service and bike unavailability I have been told this is based anecdotal comments of a mechanic, what evidence do you possess to support your view that Limerick is more prone to vandalism?
Answer: The issue of vandalism was addressed in the presentation (see attached slides). In one case, the NTA said that all of the saddles of bikes at one station were stolen. They have had discussions with Gardaí and the Council in relation to this.
Q. After 5 years Coca Cola stopped its sponsorship, how much do the NTA pay to annually subsidize the Bikeshare scheme now?
Answer : the cost of the sponsorship was €500,000 annually. The contract came to an end and the NTA could not re advertise due to the ongoing court case. They are now looking at options regarding better advertising boards at stations and they also noted that local authorities do not contribute to the cost of the scheme.
Q. Are you aware that the Bikeshare website bike numbers and locations do not reflect the actual numbers on the ground? It seems you rely on Telfourth Ltd numbers and pay accordingly, is this true?
Answer: Again NTA raised issues with the original software operator and lack of technical support for this. Will be looking at this issue. In relation to numbers they mentioned that the website only gives the original number of bikes that were delivered to Limerick. There are now 263 bikes. Some were deployed to Galway at one stage when they got new stations.
Q. Are you aware that many in Limerick have stopped using the scheme, myself included, due to poor communication on app of closed stations, untrustworthy bikes and general unreliability and poor quality service?
Answer: They said that spare parts again were an issue but that they have altered parts of the bike (back mudguard) that they feel will better protect the bikes from general operating difficulties and from vandalism. These new and improved bikes will be rolled out going forward. They agreed that service user numbers were not great and would hope that this will improve in line with a better service being provided going forward.
Q. The QSA (Quality Service Agreement) allows for payment deductions to be made for breaches in service. Have you ever made such deductions?
Answer: This question was not answered.
Q. Does the NTA believe a good quality service is being delivered in the regional cities and what do they base their service quality off?
Answer: No was the short answer they gave to this. They don’t believe a good quality of service has been delivered. They hope that the service will elevate over the next year.
Q. New stations such as LIT and bringing King John Station back online were promised to be delivered by 2018. What is the delay in over 3 years of delivering these schemes?
Answer: There were many stations on the Northside of the city that were identified for stations that were not delivered. They kind of danced around this question regarding the delay but mentioned funding and lack of uptake and expressed that the LIT station was the obviously the most viable. In relation to King John’s castle they said it was ultimately the sourcing of parts that caused the delay and also they were also in discussion with the Council regarding the suitability of the original location. The new location is more suitable.
Q. Are you aware that a diesel van collects and transports the bikes from Mungret throughout the City? Were electric vans not part of the contract to ensure climate benefits of a public bike scheme?
Answer: The original contract from 2013 did not have a requirement for an electric vehicle. That contract is due to end soon and an electric vehicle will be a requirement under the new contract.