Tuesday 28 February 2017

Transport bosses to seek extra money for services

Paul Melia

Paul Melia

Paschal Donohoe

The National Transport Authority (NTA) will seek extra funding for public transport services even as the travelling public braces itself for strike action next weekend.

The authority will seek Government funding for up to 120 new buses to provide extra services to meet a projected 10pc increase in demand over the next three years as the economy continues to recover and more people return to work.

It is understood a 24-hour bus link between Dublin Airport and the city centre is one of the new services being considered. There are also plans to increase frequency and to provide additional capacity at peak times, along with extra services at weekends, particularly Sunday, to cater for workers.

The move comes as trade unions and the NTA remain at loggerheads over a move to tender 10pc of all bus services to the private sector from April next year.

It is understood that informal discussions took place yesterday, but unless firm proposals are made on protecting drivers' terms and conditions, the strike will go ahead next Friday and Saturday, followed by further days of action later in the month.

This will have a major impact on those travelling for the May bank holiday weekend. The AA has warned that traffic will be heavier than usual on Friday, and urged people to leave plenty of time to get to their destinations.

Iarnród Éireann said it would operate a full schedule, but warned of curtailments to services in and out of Heuston and Connolly stations in Dublin due to engineering works.

Some 240 Dublin Bus drivers and up to 50 from Bus Éireann are expected to be affected by the tendering of routes to private operators in Dublin, Waterford city and on commuter routes into the capital.

But NTA chief executive Anne Graham said demand for increased services in the coming years could result in most of the affected Dublin Bus drivers being used to provide new routes, although there might not be as many opportunities for those working in Bus Éireann.

"We always felt the growth in demand for services in the coming years means they could remain with Dublin Bus. There's likely to be significant growth in the coming years. We could see those drivers remaining," she said.

"We expect that growth and demand for services will match those 240 drivers for Dublin Bus. For Bus Éireann, it probably wouldn't be to the same extent. That growth has been slower compared to Dublin."

Ms Graham said there was still demand for public transport as there was less road space to cater for an increased number of cars, and that extra funding would be sought.

"The only way to get Dublin growing, and the regions, is to ensure more public transport services are available," she said. "We will be putting to the minister what we need in terms of further buses and extra PSO (public service obligation) to meet that demand."

It is understood that up to 90 extra buses for Dublin Bus will be sought, and 40 for Bus Éireann, along with around €8m in additional funding.

Ms Graham's comments echo those of Transport Minister Paschal Donohoe who has said that growing passenger numbers mean that more services will have to be provided.

Irish Independent

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