The company seeking to challenge Bus Éireann's role as the sole operator of the €150 million a year school transport scheme confirmed yesterday it is taking its case to the Supreme Court.
Last year, the High Court ruled against a claim by US multinational-backed Student Transport Scheme (STS) that the Department of Education should put the service out to tender in line with general public procurement practice.
The company confirmed yesterday that it is going ahead with a Supreme Court appeal against the decision after, putting up €201,439 as security for the department’s legal costs.
STS has already put up €245,000, provided by IC Bus, part of US transport group and manufacturer Navistar, which wants to bid for the service if it is eventually put out to tender.
The High Court upheld the department’s position that the relationship between it and the State-owned Bus Éireann is not a commercial contract, but an administrative arrangement between two arms of the State, where the Minister for Education “instructs” the company to provide the service.
This was partly based on the fact that the department reimburses the company, which does not make a profit, and can unilaterally cut the funding available for the service.
STS argues it has since emerged that Bus Éireann company has made a profit from operating the school transport scheme. However, both the State transport company and the department say that this is not the case.
While STS confirmed that it intended to appeal the ruling, it had to provide security for costs before the action could proceed.
The company lodged the cash needed with the High Court yesterday. It has raised the €201, 439 required from private backers, which it did not name, rather than asking IC Bus, which has already provided €245,000.
In a statement, it said that it had made a conscious decision not to ask the US company because of the "embarrassing way they were treated in Ireland in this case".
An appeal could take up to 32 months to get to a hearing. However, the company hopes the establishment of a new appeal court could shorten the queue to get to the Supreme Court.