Private bus operators take case against Dublin Bus
PRIVATE BUS operators Circleline and Mortons Coaches have lodged a multimillion euro law suit against Dublin Bus alleging anti-competitive practices on bus routes from Lucan and Celbridge to Dublin city centre, writes John Collins.
Circleline ceased trading last June after it claimed Dublin Bus "flooded" the routes with buses, a claim the latter has consistently denied.
The two bus companies issued proceedings just before the Christmas break and are seeking to have the case admitted to the Competition Court list of the High Court. They are being advised by BCM Hanby Wallace solicitors.
A spokeswoman for Dublin Bus confirmed that the State-owned company had received correspondence from Circleline. She said Dublin Bus would be "defending the case vigorously".
"We have stated time and time again that we reject any claims by Circleline. All our services on these routes were operated in accordance with the service authorisation given to us by the Department of Transport."
Speaking to The Irish Times yesterday, Paul Morton, managing director of Mortons Coaches, said Dublin Bus had engaged in "predatory practices" on the routes in question.
"We hope to prove that Dublin Bus abused its dominant position and effectively forced us to cease operations on two routes where we were providing a valued service to thousands of commuters," said Mr Morton. "I hope this case will show that Dublin Bus is subject to the same competition rules as all private bus operators, and that it can no longer use State funding in an anti-competitive manner."
According to Circleline, more than 11,000 people a week used its service and 3,600 of these had annual smart cards costing €675.
The firm had 27 staff when it ceased trading last June.
Mr Morton said the company would be placed in liquidation in the coming weeks.
Circleline, which was a joint venture with Bartons Transport in Maynooth, Co Kildare, had invested more than €2.5 million in its fleet, Mr Morton said.
Mortons won the licence to operate the routes in 2003, and upgraded its capacity in 2006 when it leased 12 new buses to service the route.
Circleline had a licence to operate the routes from the Department of Transport but said they had become uneconomic since Dublin Bus "flooded it" with buses since April 2007.
Circleline incurred losses of €166,000 in 2007, its first full year of trading.