A taxpayer-funded 20 per cent cut in bus fares discriminates against some passengers and distorts competition, private coach companies say.
The Government announced a 20 per cent cut in fares for State-funded public service bus routes in a €505 million bid to ease soaring living costs this month.
John Halpenny, chairman of the Coach Tourism and Transport Council (CTTC) of Ireland wrote to Eamon Ryan, Minister for Transport, and all Oireachtas members this week saying the move distorts competition.
Private coach companies say it disadvantages them and their passengers as the €54 million taxpayer funding for the cuts benefits State-owned Bus Éireann and Dublin Bus, but not routes operated by CTTC members.
Mr Halpenny also highlights the Youth Travel Card, announced in the budget, which offers 50 per cent discounts to people aged 19 to 23.
So far this scheme only applies to the State transport companies and it is not clear when the Government will extend it to private operators.
The Department of Transport said that the Government planned to broaden the scheme to commercial bus operators at “a later date” after introducing the cards for State public service routes in May.
The CTTC chairman tells TDs and senators that the policies “serve to distort the market which causes the sector real concern about fair and reasonable competition”.
Mr Halpenny noted that Government Covid-19 travel restrictions have left many of the his members facing a crisis in their businesses.
“To exacerbate this, Government policy is discriminating against passengers who avail of our routes around the country to get to work, college and to an array of services,” he says.
The council wants funding for the 20 per cent discount scheme extended to its members along with the youth travel card.
It also calls for the full resumption of the Commercial Bus Operators Scheme, meant to aid the industry through the pandemic, until passenger numbers revive.
The CTTC is seeking an urgent meeting with Mr Ryan to discuss this and calls on Oireachtas members to raise their concerns with the Minister.
The department said that to date the Government had given €60 million in pandemic supports to private bus companies.
“Licensed bus operators are an integral part of the overall public transport system particularly in areas which are not covered by existing public service bus and rail services,” said a statement.
The CTTC says its members support 11,000 jobs across the Republic and generate €600 million a-year on the back of 75 million passenger journeys annually.