Bus firm settles action with Minister


A PRIVATE bus company has settled its High Court action against the Minister for Transport over a decision allowing Dublin Bus to change a route between Swords and Dublin airport with the alleged effect of threatening the private company's business.

Swords Express had claimed the Minister's decision was unlawful and allowed unfair competition by Dublin Bus.

Digital Messenger Limited, trading as Swords Express, Lower Grand Canal Street, Dublin, had brought its case against the Minister with Dublin Bus as a notice party. The claims were denied.

Following lengthy discussions outside court, Mr Justice Daniel Herbert was told yesterday afternoon by Frank Callanan SC, for Swords Express, that "matters had been agreed" between his clients and the Minister.

No terms of the settlement were outlined to the court.

Brian Cregan SC, for Dublin Bus, said his client was seeking the costs of the case. That costs application was resisted by both Paul O'Higgins SC, for the Minister, and Mr Callanan.

The judge said he was adjourning the case to today to allow all sides to consider their position on costs in light of the fact that the main issue between Swords Express and the Minister had been resolved. The case had been expected to last for two days.

Swords Express brought the case over the Minister's decision to allow Dublin Bus to alter its route from Swords to Dublin - the 41X route - so as to permit the route to pass through the Port Tunnel. The Swords Express service operates between Swords and the Custom House Quay via the Port Tunnel.

Swords Express claimed Dublin Bus received a State subsidy and could afford to transport passengers at a lower fare than other licensed operators.

It argued that it was entitled, as a matter of fair procedures and natural and constitutional justice, to make submissions to the Minister before the Minister decided Dublin Bus's proposed service would not compete with its service but was given no such opportunity.

The company claimed the Minister prejudged the matter and, by negotiating with Dublin Bus, made his decision in a biased manner or in a manner such as to give rise to a reasonable apprehension of bias.

Swords Express also claimed it applied last January for a licence to operate a service from April last between Brackenstown Road and O'Connell Bridge via Applewood but, to date, the Minister had failed to determine the application. The delay had adversely affected its business, the company claimed. The Minister had denied the claims.