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Brake defects, faulty seatbelts, broken doors – the allegations made against a major bus operator

Whistleblower Nico Holloway raised issues of ‘grave public importance’ about Dublin Coach vehicles in ‘The Big Green Bus’ fleet at the Workplace Relations Commission

Nico Holloway arrived in Ireland in September 2023 to drive for Citi Bus Limited, which trades as Dublin Coach but is better known as “The Big Green Bus”, the words emblazoned on its distinctive green livery.

Within a few months he had been sacked for what the bus company called “unsatisfactory performance during [his] probationary period”.

However, according to Mr Holloway’s submissions to the Workplace Relations Commission, which The Irish Times has seen, he alleges there was another reason for his dismissal.

Mr Holloway argues that he was in fact sacked for having raised the matter of “seriously dangerous and defective vehicles” in the company’s fleet, and that furthermore the company tried to “actively deport” him to prevent him ventilating those safety concerns.


His case came before the WRC on Tuesday with Mr Holloway’s lawyer telling the commission that his client’s allegations against the private coach operator were “very serious” and a matter of “grave public importance”. The WRC heard he had recovered photos and video footage showing alleged defects with vehicles.

According to Mr Holloway’s submissions to the WRC, some of those buses in the fleet suffer from significant safety issues, from windscreen wiper and seat belt issues to malfunctioning doors and gearboxes

Mr Holloway has taken on the company and turned whistleblower, making complaints under the Protected Disclosures Act 2014 and legislation protecting employees.

Dublin Coach has more than 50 drivers operating dozens of buses on more than seven major intercity routes across the country. Many of them are 24-hour services, including a regular service from Dublin Airport.

According to Mr Holloway’s submissions to the WRC, some of those buses in the fleet suffer from significant safety issues, from windscreen wiper and seat belt issues to malfunctioning doors and gearboxes.

In his WRC complaint, he claims that “all of these concerns were documented in the vehicle logbooks”, in which the drivers are required to note any defects in the bus at the end of their shift.

He wasn’t the only one making note of the defects, he claims. Those “logbooks showed that the same complaints were regularly made by drivers in respect of seriously dangerous and defective vehicles,” the filings state.

His submissions to the WRC include a number of exhibits that show the nature of the alleged damage. Some of those issues are minor, such as malfunctioning toilets or air conditioners jammed on cold, but others show more significant issues.

One photograph, for example, shows a picture of an unmaintained fire extinguisher, while photos of the vehicle logbooks show that drivers several times noted out-of-date fire extinguishers.

Other forms show drivers noting that their bus had a number of warning lights flashing on the dashboard.

Another set of recorded defects relate to the bus’s retarders, a kind of secondary braking system. One log entry notes that “retarders activate while driving and decelerates the bus”, while another entry shows a driver recording that “retarder does not work”.

The exhibits in the submissions also note a number of instances of bus’s windscreens being cracked and the drivers’ seat belt tensioners not working, while there are references in other instances to the blind spot mirror being absent, cruise control not working, and the front suspension on one bus being “in bad condition”.

There are several references in logbooks to the front door of some buses not working, while one log entry notes: “Middle door faulty, compromising in case of emergency”.

A photograph included as an exhibit alongside the submissions shows a bus’s front passenger door tied shut from the inside with a makeshift solution: red and white emergency tape wound around the arm of the door and knotted tight around the metal handrail of the stairs to the top deck.

There are also references to errors on some buses’ tachograph device, which records the amount of time drivers spend driving and resting, as well as capturing data about the vehicle, while another vehicle defect form mentions that one bus’s speedometer is faulty.

Another picture shows smoke pouring out from beneath the chassis, over the rear wheels, as it idles in a parking bay.

According to Mr Holloway’s filings, he raised such issues at various times.

According to MR Holloway’s solicitors, the company ‘viewed [Holloway]’s residency status as a means of control” and having terminated his employment it “attempted to actively deport [Holloway]’

In November 2023, he reported issues with the engine on one vehicle. In December he reported that the doors were malfunctioning on a bus, that there were issues with fog lights, as well as with the steering wheel, wipers, mirrors, seat belts, and gear box, among other matters.

Mr Holloway states in the filings that “the company took no remedial steps to address these very serious defective vehicles which were carrying passengers”.

He was sacked by Citi Bus on January 5, 2024, by way of a letter. He says he was also approached “in the company’s canteen and advised [the company] were going to take him to the airport, where he had been booked on a flight to return to South Africa”.

According to Mr Holloway’s solicitors, the company “viewed [Holloway]’s residency status as a means of control” and having terminated his employment it “attempted to actively deport [Holloway] to mitigate him ventilating such concerns” about the safety of the buses.

In his submissions to the WRC he argues that he was “placed in a vulnerable position by virtue of his nationality where he was brought to a foreign jurisdiction and isolated and treated in a manner where he could be expected to accept substandard treatment”.

Holloway is not the only driver who has raised safety issues with the company’s buses. Another driver, Lukas Badenhorst, is also disputing his dismissal and has made claims of similar health and safety issues related to the state of the buses. In correspondence seen by The Irish Times, the company insists that Mr Badenhorst’s employment had been properly terminated. That case is not before the WRC.

In the hearing of Mr Holloway’s case at the WRC this week, Citi Bus Limited’s legal team applied for an adjournment.

Des Ryan BL, instructed by Dawson O’Toole Solicitors, said that some of the supporting material to Mr Holloway’s claim had arrived late and that the company’s legal team had not had time to consider the material and take instructions. The supplementary material included “video footage, photographs and 13 so-called defect notifications in respect of vehicles”, according to Mr Ryan.

Adjudicator David James Murphy granted the adjournment to give the sides time to make further submissions.

The Irish Times last week sent a detailed list of questions to the company in relation to the allegations raised by Holloway. The company received the email but declined to comment.