Minister retains €36m until cost base tackled


MINISTER FOR Transport Leo Varadkar has said he will not hand over an extra €36 million approved as a subvention to CIÉ until the company deals with its cost overruns.

Mr Varadkar maintained he could not “in clear conscience” transfer the money until the CIÉ companies and the unions addressed their own cost base.

He said CIÉ had to dispose of assets, find new credit facilities and broker a new agreement with the bus unions to deal with cost overruns, but there had been “very little progress” since the summer in relation to that.

Mr Varadkar and Minister of State for Transport Alan Kelly met the chairmen of the CIÉ companies on Wednesday to see what was being done to bridge the gap. The companies involved are Irish Rail, Bus Éireann and Dublin Bus.

The subvention was approved in July to ensure CIÉ was adequately funded for the future, but the Minister had not handed it over because of the lack of progress.

Speaking at the launch of Dublin Bus’s new fleet of 80 buses, costing €26 million, Mr Varadkar said he was determined not to let the public transport system collapse.

“The money is there to keep the public transport system going. I can’t have the companies coming back every three or four months looking for more,” he said.

“We need to have agreements from the bus unions – the rail unions have already agreed to a deal. We also need to have a speeding up of the promised asset sales and credit facilities.

“I can’t agree on any changes to terms and conditions on any of those fronts since the summer and I can’t in clear conscience hand over additional taxpayers’ money until the companies and the union do their bit too.”

The 80 buses give low-floor wheelchair access, have free wifi, and will have 10 CCTV cameras in operation.

In addition there will be dedicated spaces for wheelchair-users and people with buggies. The routes they will operate will be the 7, 151, 4, 102, 33, 29a, 104 and 1.

Gerry Mullen of the Coach Tourism and Transport Council, which represents the private sector, said the Minister was correct to withhold the €36 million.

He said it was essential that the Minister ensured that the CIÉ companies cut costs rather than services.

It was very hard to understand why the subvention was offered in the first place, he added.