by Sandra Coffey, Galway Independent
Galway businessman Jim Burke began in the transport business in the 1970s and, even after 30 years, he is still very much hands-on with GoBus.ie, who recently celebrated eight years in business.
He puts the success down to two things – meeting the needs of customers and still enjoying the job after all these years.
While Jim as Managing Director is mainly involved in the running of GoBus.ie, he has been known to get behind the wheel and drive one of the buses from time to time. “I am not involved in every day driving but sometimes I do drive by choice. It is nice to get out and see what’s happening and get feedback.”
He also likes to call down to the Coach Station on Forster Street to speak to customers travelling to and from Dublin. GoBus.ie has 19 daily services from Galway to Dublin and Dublin Airport with extra departures at weekends and also operates Motorway services between Cork and Dublin.
The family run company currently employs over 60 people, including Jim’s two sons Dara and Donal, along with a team of drivers and admin staff, many of whom are with GoBus.ie from the start.
It has been a busy few weeks for the Galway owned company. They recently announced a major investment in the business with a €3m fleet programme that has added 10 new 2017 Volvo 9700 coaches to an already extensive high spec Volvo fleet.
Alongside this, Jim has been nominated as a finalist in the 2017 Entrepreneur of the Year Awards. “I feel confident about the awards. I think we are in with a good chance. We are innovators in our own right. We have invested a lot in the business recently and over the years. We are really honoured to be part of this programme,” he says. The winners won’t be known until October but until then there are lots of elements to the programme including a trip to San Francisco. “The trip to the US is an opportunity to network and to attend workshops. It will be good to meet other entrepreneurs.”
GoBus.ie services began in 2009 after securing the first licence in the country for a non-stop motorway service. “We actually applied for the licence before the motorway was finished. At that time it could take up to four or five hours to get to Dublin on the old road but once the motorway opened it reduced this time significantly. Everyone was itching to get onto the motorway; I could see huge potential in it.”
Buying 10 new buses has opened up other possibilities for the expanded fleet, mainly along the lines of tours. “There are a lot of tourists coming into Ireland at the moment and there are times when we don’t have enough buses,” he adds. As well as servicing their own tours, they hire out buses to other operators.
In the next three weeks, the company will move into new offices. “We have outgrown where we are but we are not moving far.” The new offices will be on the same street but closer to the Coach Station. “We had been looking for a while to increase our office space and when the building came on the market, we went for it, it’s a perfect fit,” he states.
Another opportunity for the company is to be ready when the Public Service Obligation (PSO) routes are put out for open tendering by 2019. Under EU regulations these PSO services between commuter towns will be opened up to all operators. “These were routes we could never get into before. There will be a lot more opportunities and more services for people living in rural areas. That’s what we hope will happen.”
Galway’s designation as 2020 European Capital of Culture is also a huge opportunity. It is estimated that over one million people will visit Galway during the year. “We supported this from the beginning. It is something that is going to be huge for Galway. Everyone will benefit.”
Mr Burke believes more hotels are needed to cope with the demand, and adds that the increasing visitor numbers will put enormous pressure on the infrastructure of the City, “which has already exceeded its capacity”.
Being in the transport business, Mr Burke is on the ground hearing and witnessing our well-documented traffic problems. He also experiences the traffic backlog on his commute from his home in Corofin into Galway City.
“I sometimes get angry about it. I see things that could be changed easily and I wonder why they can’t be improved.” He points to the one-way Lough Atalia/College Road system that was in place when works were underway at the railway bridge. “It was a temporary change but it worked so well. The City Council needs to do something like that again but on a more permanent basis.”
He adds, “We need the outer bypass too and we need more bus corridors. We need to take more cars out of the city to ease the congestion and make the buses quicker to get around town.”
“There are lots that can be done and that needs to be done before people arrive in Galway for 2020. But planning for this should be happening now. We don’t have the infrastructure to take much more.”
With GoBus.ie’s latest expansion, new offices and award nominations, change is something that Mr Burke takes in his stride. Recalling his early days in the transport businesss, he says that it is that experience and learning on the ground that has propelled the success of his own business. “I’ve never lost the passion for the business and I don’t think I ever will.”
For more on GoBus, visit www.GoBus.ie