Monday 17 June 2019

Bus Éireann refuses to rule out further route cuts

Driving profits: Bus Éireann chairman Aidan Murphy, ‘Legend’ the dog, NTA CEO Anne Graham, and Bus Éireann CEO Stephen Kent
Driving profits: Bus Éireann chairman Aidan Murphy, ‘Legend’ the dog, NTA CEO Anne Graham, and Bus Éireann CEO Stephen Kent
Ellie Donnelly

Ellie Donnelly

Bus Éireann has refused to rule out further route cuts, despite reporting a profit of €1.6m before exceptional items last year.

"If we do route closures we will always do it in consultation with the stakeholder like the National Transport Authority (NTA)," said Bus Éireann CEO Stephen Kent.

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"So if we do it, we will do it for a commercial reason, where we don't believe there is a path to profit, that it can't be subvented."

"Certain routes need to be subvented, there is not enough revenue on them. So if there is a cost required we then need to discuss that with the NTA. So I could never say 'no, never,' we are in a competitive market, we will do our best to compete, there is no point promising something I could never deliver on," he added.

As recently as two years ago the organisation was on its knees financially.

Since then it has implemented over 60 "transformational measures", which have included pay freezes and staff cuts.

Unveiling its annual report for 2018 yesterday, the group said it would have to invest in its fleet, and in technology, which would save the State money.

Bus Éireann said it would also have to invest in its people. "They haven't seen a pay increase since 2008, they have gone through a lot of changes, we are trying to recognise that," Mr Kent said.

On the prospect of Bus Éireann returning a dividend to the State, Mr Kent said he hoped the organisation gets to a position where it can do that.

"I hope we get to there, that's what we want to do. At the moment this is the first instance where we are returning €1.6m [profit] before exceptional [items]."

The group said the service it provides in taking children to school is currently a cost-recovery delivery, "that will be a dialogue where we see whether that changes in terms of our service level agreements that we have with the Department of Education".

Bus Éireann reported an operating profit before exceptional items of €1.6m in respect of 2018. This is a swing on the loss of €6.8m in 2017. The group reduced its deficit to €6.7m, from €23.7m in the last 12 months.

During the year passenger numbers increased by 6.3pc to 83.6 million. Bus Éireann's passenger numbers are now at their highest since 2008.

The company, which employs more than 2,700 across the country, generated €58.1m for the Exchequer last year, up from €54.7m in 2017.

Irish Independent

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