John Griffin had been travelling for more than 22 hours when he emerged on Monday out of the terminus at Dublin Port and into the amber glow of the streetlights.
The Stena Line ferry he came over on had docked at 23.45pm as usual. Around 30 or so of his fellow passengers glanced about, confused, luggage in hand.
On the tarmac in front of the ferry terminus there were two coaches sat idle and driverless. Two taxis sped off towards Tolka Quay Road.
“They’re saying there’s no more taxis available,” says Griffin, who has travelled from Guildford in England and is headed to Irishtown. “Because of the late ferry crossing.”
With no late-night public transport and few taxis available, it’s not the first time passengers have been stranded at Dublin Port, says Sinn Féin Councillor Gaye Fagan.
“A friend of mine was travelling back. He lives in East Wall. There was no bus connection,” says Fagan. “Taxis won’t always go down either because there’s not always people to pick up.”
Fagan says there must be a solution.
Stood in the terminus car park on Monday evening, Henrik and Helen Butler need to head towards the city centre, 5km away. “We didn’t expect this,” says Helen.
Both live in London and have travelled from Holyhead. When Irish Ferries’ high-speed craft, the Dublin Swift, was cancelled earlier in the afternoon, they switched to the Stena Line service.
Their journey ended with a competition. Passengers vied for the few taxis present.
“Any taxis?” a passenger asks a Stena Line operator on duty tonight.
“No taxis,” a young woman, lighting up a cigarette, tells her friend.
“Are there any taxis left?” asks a woman in a blue mac, backpack slung over her shoulders.
Shortly after 12:10am, with no cabs in sight, passengers begin to chat with one another. In the distance, the Poolbeg incinerator spews gouts of smoke into the night air.
Some start to order taxis on apps on their phones, checking for signal, and alerts that they are en route.
A tired Griffin, standing at the corner of the terminus, manages to go splits on a taxi with a young American couple.
“Luckily we’re going to go together,” says Griffin, keeping on eye on Tolka Quay Road for their taxi’s arrival.
On the terminus tarmac, two Morton’s coaches remain idle.
Morton’s operates a coach service throughout the day from Dublin Port.
Not for the 23:45pm ferry service, though, because the demand is generally not there, says Paul Morton, owner of Morton’s Coaches.
Because the Dublin Swift service was interrupted on Friday and Saturday night, Morton’s was asked by Stena Line to help out and provide a coach service for passengers who’d been transferred to their 23:45pm service. But not on Monday.
Stena Line subsidises this coach service, says Morton. But there’s often few foot passengers who need transport, he says. “In general it’s a freight ship at that time of night.”
Dublin Bus operates a service from Talbot Street to the port. But route 53 only runs until 7pm during the week, 7:30pm on Saturdays and 5:30pm on Sundays, says a spokesperson for Dublin Bus, who said the company is not looking at extending this service.
Taxis generally don’t make the trip down to the port either. That’s because taxi drivers aren’t always guaranteed a fare at the port, says Joe Herron, president of the Irish Taxi Drivers’ Federation. “You’ve a long journey to drive back up,” he says.
Although ferry companies like Stena Line have no “statutory requirement to provide transport”, said a spokesperson for Stena Line, its staff “always ensure that the Terminal building remains open until all passengers have secured transport”.
What’s the Solution?
That the Dublin Swift service was cancelled this evening doesn’t help matters, say the Butlers, stood next to others near the terminus’ sliding doors. Inside, a vending machine hums as light bounces off linoleum floors.
The Butlers, like the remaining 12 or so passengers, look fed up.
Shortly after 12:20pm, more taxis begin to arrive from Tolka Quay Road as the night cools down.
One solution to this ongoing problem is to make sure as many taxi drivers as possible know when a large group is arriving at Dublin Port, says the Taxi Federation’s Herron.
It won’t always be busy, he says. So when it is going to be, a signal or notification to taxi drivers in Dublin from Stena Line could help.
Sinn Féin’s Fagan says she has been told that Fáilte Ireland is currently looking at the problem of stranded passengers.
A spokesperson for Fáilte Ireland says it has recently been made aware of “transport challenges for passengers arriving into Dublin Port, particularly at night”.
They have raised concerns with Dublin Port and the National Transport Authority “to see how they can be improved”, they said.
Hopefully, the transport gap will be sorted, says Fagan. “Tourists coming into the country, I mean, would you like to be landing there with no transport? I wouldn’t.”