A number of east-coast services, mainly commuter routes operated by Bus Éireann, are to be put out to tender by the National Transport Authority (NTA).
The services involved are the Dublin-Drogheda (routes 101 and 101X) and routes 133 and 131 which operate between Dublin and Wicklow.
It is understood that Bus Éireann is planning to compete strongly to retain the right to operate these routes as part of the process. The contract is expected to be awarded before Christmas.
Trade unions representing staff at Bus Éireann oppose the NTA putting routes, which the company has traditionally operated, out to tender.
The National Bus and Rail Union said while there was no intention to engage in industrial action on the issue, if change was imposed on workers without consultation there was potential for a negative reaction.
The union said there was a registered employment agreement in place providing protection for staff and warned Bus Éireann not to use the NTA “market opening initiative” as a means to undermine it.
As part of a previous NTA process, Bus Éireann lost the rights to operate Kildare commuter services, but won the contract to continue to provide services in Waterford. More than 20 routes previously operated by Dublin Bus transferred to independent company Go-Ahead after a similar process.
The NTA wants a single operator to operate the routes 101, 101X, 133 and 131 for a five-year period, which could be further extended by two years.
It is envisaged that services would commence under the arrangement from June of next year, but there would be a “mobilisation “ period to prepare for the change of at least six months .
Under the plan, the NTA would provide the chosen operator with the bus fleet and associated on-board equipment required to run the services for the duration of the contract.
“The operator will be responsible for the sale of on-board tickets and the collection of fare revenue, and will also be responsible for revenue protection,” it said.
“In addition, the operator will be required to provide full ticketing data and will be required to support the authority’s integrated ticketing [Leap Card] system as specified in the contract.”