Private bus operators seek all subsidised routes to be put out to tender

New talks aimed at resolving crisis at Bus Éireann to get underway on Monday

Talks get underway on Monday to try to resolve the financial crisis at Bus Éireann.

Talks get underway on Monday to try to resolve the financial crisis at Bus Éireann.

 

Private bus operators are seeking the Government to put out to tender all bus services which qualify for a State subsidy.

Under current arrangements private bus companies will be permitted to bid for the rights to run up to 10 per cent of public service obligation routes currently operated by Dublin Bus and Bus Éireann.

The two State-owned companies will be allowed to tender for the routes concerned.

However, the organisation representing private coach and bus operators in Ireland on Sunday called for “equal and open tendering” on all public transport bus routes.

The Coach Tourism and Transport Council of Ireland (CTTC) said its members wanted “to play a central role in the future delivery of all public transport routes – both commercial and non-commercial”.

It said this included having access to tender for all subsidised public service obligation routes in both rural and urban Ireland.

Any move to put additional routes currently operated by Dublin Bus and Bus Éireann out to tender would be strongly opposed by trade unions.

CTTC national director Kevin Traynor maintained that the European Commission had mandated full liberalisation of the Irish bus market by 2019. He said the Government had to date opened just 10 per cent of public service obligation (PSO) routes to open competitive tender.

He also said a comprehensive review of public bus transport in Ireland was needed and that planning should take place to deal with future needs.

“An overall review should include a input from all stakeholders: - private operators, Bus Éireann and Dublin Bus and the relevant statutory bodies, to form a cohesive and viable plan.

“It should integrate the roles of both the private and public sectors to work together to meet future growing demand for bus transport in rural and urban Ireland. It must also include how to deliver non-commercial routes which service the public good and ensure connectivity in rural communities, and how both commercial and non-commercially viable services can work together to provide a national network.”

The CTTC said its vision for the future involved equal and open tendering to both the public and private sectors on all public service obligation routes.

It said this should be “without the barrier on private operators of requiring a huge turnover”.

It said this requirement restricted the majority of indigenous operators, “and leaves it mainly accessible to large multinational or State owned companies”.

“There is a need to review the current public service obligation subvention routes to ensure value for money for both the consumer and taxpayer. Shifts in population density, greater use of affordable park and ride facilities and feeder services should be considered.

“Private sector bus operators do not have an agenda to ‘cherry pick’ urban artery routes. They also operate many rural routes and would like to operate more, including public service obligation routes, and integrate these effectively with other licensed scheduled routes.”

The comments by the private bus operators come as talks will get underway on Monday in an attempt to resolve the financial crisis at Bus Éireann.

Management deferred plans to unilaterally implement controversial work practice changes and unions simultaneously suspended a strike to facilitate the new talks process at the Workplace Relations Commission.

The company indicated on Friday for the first time that the immediate threat of insolvency at the company could be overcome by staff co-operation with improved efficiency measures and the implementation of all existing national agreements across the company. Plans for cuts to terms and conditions and further cost-saving measures which were to be included in an all-embracing survival plan which was to have been completed by the end of March would appear to have been shelved.