Tag Archives | The Irish Examiner

Slower trains, or fiddling the numbers

There was an article in the Irish Examiner this morning with the headline “Iarnród Éireann admits journey times are longer”. The story starts with the following statement:

Timetables from 1974 and 1993 show journey times are now longer between principal destinations like Dublin, Cork, Waterford, and Sligo.

Fifteen years ago, the fastest train between Dublin and Cork completed the journey in two hours and 20 minutes, yet today the swiftest service takes two hours 45 minutes. In 1974, passengers could board the 6pm train at Dublin Heuston and arrive at Waterford at 8.15pm, yet today the journey time has increased by eight minutes.

This got me to thinking. Are these longer timetabled journey times because of issues with the trains and tracks, or are the trains being timetabled for longer journeys for the same reason that flights are taking longer now than they did 20 years ago.

Irish Rail, like many airlines, are being publicly measured according to their punctuality performance over time. For example, you can see the targets for Irish Rail from their website here.

If these performance numbers aren’t being met, we know what kind of uproar there would be – witness for example the furore over An Post providing a 77% on time delivery performance, rather than 94% which is their target.

So, how can an organisation like Irish Rail, or the airlines, make sure that their on time arrivals are nearly always met – maybe they could schedule the journey to take significantly longer than it will actually take. With that comfort level, you’ll rarely be late, even if you leave late.

We wrote about this, particularly in relation to airlines, back in May 2007. To follow up on that post, as a perfect example, the Ryanair Dublin to Stanstead schedule allows for 1hr 15mins for a flight – a flight that has you up in the air for no more than 55mins normally. We’ve all experienced our Ryanair flights taking off late, yet we still get the blurb when we land through the speakers telling us that the flight has arrived early.


Ticket Text – Competition for TicketMaster for Irish consumers?

A couple of weeks ago, there was a press release from the company Ticket Text covered in both the Irish Examiner and the Irish Independent. According to the article:

The credit card-based service is currently offering tickets for various events including the Punchestown National Hung Festival, the Arts Festival and a number of top music concerts.

To me, the Ticket Text service is a great new concept – you buy your tickets online, and they arrive to your phone by text, with a barcode. You then just bring your phone to the gig and the barcode is read to allow you entry. Those who’ve recently visited Croke Park will be familiar by now with the ticket barcode scanner – though I’m sure it’s elsewhere by now also.

The big selling point (apart from the obvious convenience) is that Ticket Text claim to “save you money by never charging postage & packaging fees, plus we always keep our booking fees low”. According to the Irish Examiner article,

Ticket Text’s chief executive Mark McLaughlin said Ireland was the first place the company identified a demand for an alternative ticketing provider.

So, do we have an alternative to the much-maligned TicketMaster? Unfortunately, that I can discover after doing a bit of investigaton, Ticket Text are not going to disrupt the stranglehold that TicketMaster have over Irish ticket-buying consumers.

As a check, I went to buy 2 adult tickets for Ireland v Columbia in London coming up soon. And would you believe it – there is no comparison to be made. You can buy one sort of ticket on the Ticket Text site (home fans = Irish Fans), and on the TicketMaster site, you can only buy away fan (Columbian fans) tickets. So, for the same game, you can’t buy the same ticket on both sites.

If I was to go ahead with the ticket purchases, the comparative prices I was charged were as follows:


And from Ticket Text:

So, the proportion of the overall fee which is made up of charges for the TicketMaster tickets is 14%, while the percentage for Ticket Text is 7%. An interesting comparison for sure and something that you’d like to see, but remember, we’re not comparing like with like.

I’ll have more on this tomorrow, but as you can see, if between Ticket Text and TicketMaster you’re not going to be able to buy the exact same tickets, then there’s no real competition.


Is a “pre-NCT” check worth getting? Even with 48% failure?

Back in December, I wrote about it not really being worth the sometimes significant cost of getting a “pre-NCT” check done prior to your actual NCT. Back then I said:

In these “pre-NCT” checks, you could very well end up paying them to check or fix something that might necessarily be a problem, while they could miss out on something that could fail in the test. While you will probably not get a guarantee that your pre-checked car will pass the NCT, the garage you use may show goodwill by fixing whatever it is causes your car to fail. But they’re not obliged to, so you could be unlucky.

The flip side of this is illustrated in this article from The Irish Examiner this morning. The story, available here, by Niamh Hennessy starts off:

ALMOST half of all vehicles tested by the National Car Test last year failed first time — with motorists shelling out more than €3 million in test fees. Of the 686,705 vehicles tested in the year, 355,708 or 51.8% managed to pass the test. Based on these figures motorists would have paid more than €3.2m to have their vehicles tested last year.

So, you could take your chances and not get a “pre-NCT” check done and possibly pay €27.50 for a retest, or you could pay up to €200 for a “pre-NCT” check, and still take your chances that you may not actually pass.

I can’t work out, nor does the article actually confirm, where this €3.2m cost mentioned comes from – presumably it comes from an estimation (or an unquoted number) of how may cars needed to get a retest costing €27.50. If every car that failed the NCT had to get such a retest (and not a free retest) then the cost would be nearly €9m.

I still think the advice in the original article referring to the NCT site, and the advice quoted in the article above, stands. There are certain things that you can do yourself that raises the chances of passing the NCT first time around – meaning you won’t have to pay out for a “pre-NCT” test nor for the €27.50 retest.


Kildare Nationalist seeks inspiration from the Irish Independent?

Back on February 8th, I got a Google Alert to ValueIreland.com being mentioned in an article entitled “Survey to reveal price differences across the EU” in the Irish Independent. In the last few days, I received another notification of ValueIreland.com being mentioned in the Kildare Nationalist on February 14th (owned by TCH – publishers of the Irish Examiner). This time the article was called “New EU survey shows true face of rip-off Ireland“. It seems like the Irish Independent has fallen victim to the research tactics of it’s journalists.

From the Independent:

Existing research shows that the price of digital cameras can vary by up to 30pc between neighbouring European countries

From the Kildare Nationalist:

Existing research shows that the price of digital cameras can vary by up to 30% between neighbouring countries – a considerable differential, given the price of some of these cameras.

From the Independent:

and that the average fees for the management of bank accounts fluctuates by up to €80 across the EU.

From the Kildare Nationalist:

Another key area of comparison relates to the average fees for the management of bank accounts. The survey so far has indicated that these can vary between zero and €80 across the EU.

And finally, from the Independent:

Irish consumers can already compare domestic prices through a range of websites like www.shoppingbill.com, www.valueireland.com and www.ripoffrepublic.com, and the Fine Gael-run site www.ripoff.ie.

And from the Kildare Nationalist:

Irish consumers can already compare domestic prices through a range of websites, including www.shoppingbill.com; www.valueireland.com; www.valueireland.com; ripoffrepublic.com; ripoffrepublic.com and Fine Gael’s site, www.ripoff.ie.

Anyone know if Charlie Weston has started working for the Kildare Nationalist?


Fine Gael fail to understand the concept of Supply and Demand

This story was in the Irish Examiner last week. Fergus O’Dowd, Fine Gael TD for Louth and Tipperary native, bemoans the fact that Irish Rail charge €27 return to get from Tipperary to Dublin, but it costs €45 return to get from Dublin to Tipperary.

Obviously the cost of getting home to visit the relations at the weekends from Dublin is having an adverse impact on the deputys pocket.

Being from Mayo myself, for years the anomalies of the CIE/Irish Rail fares for the Westport to Dublin train were a mystery. Why did a single and a return cost the same money was a great example.

And more recently, it never ceases to amaze me that I can’t buy a return ticket from Dublin to Wexford on a Friday evening from the ticket machines in Connolly or Pearse stations. Nor can I buy a return from Wexford to Dublin on a Sunday evening in Wexford or Enniscorthy station ticket machines.

You’d have to say though, that the response from Irish Rail chief executive Richard Fearn does make a certain amount of sense when explaining the Tipperary price differential.

He said the Tipperary-Dublin ticket price was “a significantly discounted fare” introduced in a bid to “create a local market” in Tipperary for rail services.

The article goes on:

In response to questions from Mr O’Dowd, he said Irish Rail was committed to trying to converge fares, meaning a journey in one direction would be priced at the same level as a journey in the opposite direction.

Presumably, Deputy O’Dowd means for the prices to converge to the lower €27 fare (the discounted fare) rather than the normal price of €45. Shouldn’t the deputy really quit while he, and consumers, are ahead rather than pushing for a price convergence which is more likely to leave everyone paying €45 rather than some people paying €27?


Whistleblowing in Ireland – not in our nature?

Well, not normally anyway. There’s been a couple of stories recently in the Irish Examiner which feature the possibility of whistle blowing in a couple of scenarios.

It’s not really in the psyche of the Irish to “squeal” on others where we see wrong doing in action. We’ve a part of our own history where “supergrasses” don’t have too popular a history.

The first story shows that this may be starting to change – Insurance fraud hotline receives 3,500 tip-offs. However, this relates to only 272 reported cases for 2007.

The second story, Government denies involvement in alleged price-fixing probe, provides contact details for the intriguingly named Cartel Immunity Programme within the Competition Authority. According to the article:

The spokesman said in any case where people feel there are corrupt practices in place they should contact the immunity programme at 087-7631378. This would include anybody with information on tenders for government contracts.

Note, this isn’t for whistle blowing in general – only where you think there may be cartels in operation. For example, if you think that there’s a cartel in operation in your town where the petrol prices in every petrol station are the same (unsuccessful in the end).

Personally, I believe that whistle blowing (responsibly) should be facilitated and encouraged. Day by day, we’ve seen there were so many dodgy things that have gone on over the past number of years in this country. You’d like to think that there were at least some honourable people looking on who could have done or said something (anonymously even) to bring these to the attention of someone who could have done something about it.

It’s just unfortunate that our current government are not really in favour of such whistle blowing – the Whistle Blowers Protection Act proposed by Labour in 1999 was finally killed in 2005, never to be seen since.

Then again, when you see the behaviour of many within Fianna Fail and their supporters over the years, they’d more than likely have been the primarily people to be brought to book if such legislation was actually in place.


Lazy journalism, or misrepresenting the Irish property market

It is always a source of fascination to me how lazy people in journalism can sometimes be. A good example is the following image used by the Irish Examiner on their website this morning when writing about the slowdown in Irish house building.

Why are they using an image of street in the United Kingdom then – more particularly London? See the maroon sign on the right – KFH estate agents – “A major force in the London property market”.

Can they not find a similar vista anywhere in Dublin, or Cork, or anywhere in the country? And if not, why are they trying to portray a street full of houses for sale in their newspaper when if they can’t find such a street in Ireland, it’s obviously not representative of the housing situation in Ireland. Or are they just lazy sods?


Are flights really on time?

I was reading this article in the Wall Street Journal online earlier today regarding how flights are supposedly taking longer now (in America) than 10 years ago.

The basis of this is the fact that airlines are scheduling longer flight durations now than previously, thereby building in an allowance for delays. So, for a 55 minute flight to London Aer Lingus for example, they allow 1hr 15mins in their schedule. So, the flight can actually be 10mins late, and still arrive on time.

Surprisingly, the Ryanair website is unavailable at the moment, so I can’t check their schedule, but I’m willing to bet they do the same thing.

Which brings into question the true meaning of airlines claims of “on time arrivals“. If you’re setting loose targets – 75mins for a 55mins – then of course you’ll always be on time. If only we could all set out work targets in such a manner as to be easily achievable.


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