COACH operators in Donegal have warned of testing times ahead as fuel prices hit record high levels.
The situation has been described as “a disaster”, as across the country petrol prices have risen above €2 a litre, with the price at some filling stations reaching €2.15. Diesel is on average around €1.95 a litre.
James McGinley of JMG Travel said the situation is a “big concern” for the transport and haulage industry.
“It’s a bad situation and we don’t know where it will finish. There’s no cap on it and it is affecting every operator in the transport business. It is having a huge affect,” he said.
Mr McGinley has a fleet of 26 vehicles operating numerous routes.
“From the Mountain Top to Manor takes a gallon of fuel. We do the Dublin run from Annagry in the west. There is only so much of this we can manage. We have to hope that the war will end. ”
Mr McGinley said the cost of filling a car has driven up passenger numbers.
“People still have to travel and we have noticed our coach service has increased in use. Passenger numbers have risen as fuel prices continue to increase. People are taking the cheaper option and are also avoiding paying toll charges and parking fees.
“That said, we need to see a change in excise duty.”
Another coach operator told the Donegal News the situation was “a disaster”. The operator, who did not wish to be named, said it cost him €1,000 to fill two coaches with fuel which weren’t empty at the time.
“That will last me a couple of days,” said the operator.
“We are tied in to government contracts for five years. We have school contracts and we also do dialysis runs. We offer tours as well, but our contracts are our bread and butter. At the end of the day, if we can’t earn then we can’t fulfil our contracts.”
The operator said he believed the existing rebate scheme was not working, and without urgent action he fears staff could be laid off.
“I’d like to see fuel go back to at least €1.80 a litre. When we head back to school in September I just don’t know what we’ll do. There is the possibility that staff will have to be made redundant.”
Tanáiste Leo Varadkar has said the government could intervene if ‘dramatic escalation’ in fuel prices continues. He told RTÉ Radio that if there is a “dramatic escalation” in fuel prices, the government would be forced to intervene.
In March, when fuel prices soared, the government stepped in to cut excise duty on petrol and diesel by 20c and 15c per litre, respectively.
While the move initially slowed fuel price inflation, prices have reverted to strong growth and in many cases surpass €2 a litre in many parts of the country. This means it will cost at least €500 more to run a car this year than previously.
He said planning was continuing for the forthcoming budget in the autumn to include immediate measures to assist the public and ensure the country did not slip back into recession.
European Commissioner Mairead McGuinness has warned about the possibility of fuel rationing in the future. Responding, the Tanáiste said the government had contingency plans in place.