PRIVATE bus companies will not be allowed take over routes operated by Bus Eireann and Dublin Bus until at least 2016.
The National Transport Authority (NTA) plans to allow Dublin Bus and Bus Eireann continue to operate all routes for another three years, and then 10pc of the existing network will be put out to tender.
The decision, which has been approved by the Government, comes after Transport Minister Leo Varadkar said the private sector had a role to play in the provision of public bus services.
However, it was expected that some routes would be put out to tender next year, and not in 2016.
The NTA said that putting 10pc of contracts out to tender would encourage competition.
"The authority (NTA) considers that the general economic interest would be best served in the next five years by Dublin Bus and Bus Éireann retaining a substantial proportion of services but not all services," it said.
"The authority considers that tendering in the order of 10pc of the services would be of a scale that would encourage good competition and provide a satisfactory-sized operation against which to benchmark the existing operators."
In the case of Dublin Bus, the routes which could be tendered include the 17 from Rialto to Blackrock, 33b Swords to Portrane and 111 Dun Laoghaire to Loughlinstown.
Some orbital routes around the city could also be offered to the private sector.
For Bus Éireann services, options include all Waterford city services, some city services in Cork, some rural services in the south east and some commuter services into Dublin.
Options include tendering the Waterford City and portion of Cork city services together; tendering either the Cork city portion or Waterford City services together with a portion of the Dublin coastal commuter services or tendering the Waterford city and south east rural services.
The review of the contracts awarded to the CIE companies is a condition of the Dublin Transport Authority Act of 2008.
Dublin Bus and Bus Éireann were contracted to operate routes which were the subject of a government subvention, or subsidy, between 2009 and 2014.
Gerry Murphy, Chief Executive Officer of the National Transport Authority said the proposals were "carefully balanced" to introduce competition into the market in a "structured manner".
"Dublin Bus and Bus Éireann will be able to plan for tendering and a possible downsizing if they are unsuccessful," he said.
"Private bus operators will be able to compete for 10pc of the market while the public will always have an integrated product offering although it may be delivered by a variety of operators.
"Experience from a range of countries has shown that competition has improved efficiency and services. ”
The public has been asked to submit feedback on the proposals by October 11 next. Details are at www.nationaltransport.ie.