Dublin Bus was paid €600,000 to run services for pope’s visit

Money paid by National Transport Authority for two-day visit last summer

People on a shuttle bus to the Mass celebrated by Pope Francis in the Phoenix Park, Dublin. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

People on a shuttle bus to the Mass celebrated by Pope Francis in the Phoenix Park, Dublin. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

 

Dublin Bus was paid €594,000 by the National Transport Authority last year to provide public transport services for the two-day visit of Pope Francis in August.

This emerges in the State-owned bus company’s annual report, which shows that profits more than trebled last year, helped by strong growth in its Airlink and City Tours commercial services.

Dublin Bus recorded an overall surplus of €3.7million in 2018 compared with €1 million the previous year on the back of a growth in passenger numbers.

The vast majority of the profit was derived from its commercial services with routes operating under the Government’s Public Service Obligation (PSO) subvention only contributing €300,000 to the surplus.

Total journeys on Dublin Bus services last year rose by 4.1 million to 143.5 million – an annual increase of 2.9 per cent – during what the company’s chairman, Ultan Courtney, described as “a year of significant change”.

Passenger numbers for its Airlink and City Tours services were up 9.7 per cent to 3.4 million.

Mr Courtney said the increase in passenger numbers was achieved in a period during which there had been two severe weather events, the full operation of the Luas Cross City line and the phased transition of 10 per cent of its routes to another operator, GoAhead, since last October.

Pope Francis arrives at the Phoenix Park for Mass. Photograph: Colin Keegan/Collins
Pope Francis arrives at the Phoenix Park for Mass. Photograph: Colin Keegan/Collins

Increased frequency

The company noted that the surplus on its PSO services last year compared with a break-even position in 2017, despite the fact that the PSO subvention had fallen by €6.4 million to €41.1 million.

Dublin Bus said it had introduced a significant range of enhanced services and increased frequency on existing routes, particularly at weekends, in response to continued strong demand.

Overall revenue across Dublin Bus last year was up €11.6 million – or 4.6 per cent – to €263.3 million.

Mr Courtney described said last year’s performance, which saw an improvement in profitability on both its PSO routes and commercial services, as “encouraging”.

“While we must continue our move towards a more sustainable cost base, the 2018 results will enable Dublin Bus to continue to reinvest in further service improvements,” Mr Courtney said.

Total payroll costs at Dublin Bus amounted to just under €198 million for its 3,424 employees last year. This includes wages and salaries of €167 million. The number of employees on a salary above €100,000 increased from 22 in 2017 to 37 during the period.

BusConnects project

The company also played a large role in assisting the NTA in the development of its controversial €1.5 billion BusConnects project that is proposing a major redesign of the city’s bus route network as well as the creation of 16 core bus corridors.

Mr Courtney said BusConnects offered significant growth potential and considerable investment for bus services in the Dublin region.

The company is preparing to sign a new five-year PSO direct award contract in December, which it said would deliver a sustainable basis for profitable growth.

In addition to the introduction of 141 new buses last year, nine hybrid buses using three different technologies are being trialled by Dublin Bus across routes this year.