Towns will not be ‘left behind’ following Bus Éireann routes cut, Ryan says

Transport Minister says NTA will make sure any gaps in services will be closed

Bus Éireann has to close down some of inter-city Expressway routes as a result of financial pressures brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic. File photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Time

Bus Éireann has to close down some of inter-city Expressway routes as a result of financial pressures brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic. File photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Time

 

Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan has said that “no town will be left behind” and that if any gaps are identified following the decision of Bus Éireann to shut down several of its 18 routes then the National Transport Authority will make sure such gaps are closed.

Bus Éireann on Monday announced it is to close down some of inter-city Expressway routes as a result of financial pressures brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The State-owned transport company is to end the current Dublin-Cork, Dublin-Limerick, Dublin-Galway and Dublin-Belfast routes.

An express service running from Galway to Limerick via Shannon airport, which ceased to operate during the summer is not now to resume.

Speaking on Newstalk Breakfast on Tuesday, Mr Ryan said that he would prefer if Bus Éireann were to start looking at its services on other routes. The decision to stop the routes was appropriate for the company to make in an effort to manage its resources, he said.

It is understood the company does not plan any job losses as a a result of the route closures. Instead, it is understood Bus Éireann is planning an expansion of its operations in Cork, Galway, Limerick and Waterford where it offers city services.

Bus Éireann said on Monday that it was closing and suspending the inter-urban routes “in response to significant medium-term challenges posed by Covid-19 in order to safeguard Expressway’s remaining 14 national routes and meet demand required on other city and commuter services”.

It said no dates had been determined yet as to when the services earmarked for closure would stop operating but that “changes are likely early next year when the current commercial bus operator emergency supports to the Cork, Limerick and Galway routes expire”.

“The X51 service from Galway to Limerick and the X1 service Dublin to Belfast have not been in receipt of emergency funding and services will formally cease on these routes over the next few months. The National Transport Authority is responsible for transport connectivity and will review requirements along these routes to mitigate any impact.”

The company said that the decision to close and suspend the routes followed “considerable analysis and review over the past number of months”.

The National Bus and Rail Union (NBRU) urged the Government and opposition TDs to support the retention of Bus Éireann services.

NBRU general secretary Dermot O’Leary said the union would “move might and main to ensure that our members jobs are protected.

“However, our ability to directly influence the retention of vital transport links into the towns and villages affected by this decision, will require community support and political intervention.”

The union said it had warned for several years about the threat to bus routes serving local communities. It said it had suggested that the provision of additional licences by the National Transport Authority to private operators would lead to “market saturation”.