Saturday 16 November 2019

Bus and rail staff may strike if privatisation plan given green light

NBRU general secretary Dermot O’Leary. Picture: Mark Condren
NBRU general secretary Dermot O’Leary. Picture: Mark Condren
Paul Melia

Paul Melia

The threat of strike action again hangs over bus and rail passengers, as one of the country's biggest transport unions kicks back at plans to privatise more services.

The National Transport Authority (NTA) said it intended to outsource routes into the capital that were currently operated by the semi-State transport company from 2021, saying that competition improved services, which was "good for the customer".

It follows the awarding of six routes earlier this year to UK firm Go-Ahead, which will begin operations next summer.

But unions have reacted angrily to proposals for further outsourcing, with Siptu saying public transport services should not be privatised on the basis of "spurious competitiveness arguments".

The National Bus and Rail Union (NBRU) warned the move would result in strike action across the entire CIÉ group of companies.

General secretary Dermot O'Leary said the proposal would be "vigorously opposed".

"The announcement by the NTA of its intention to tender out 10pc of Bus Éireann routes and the privatisation of State jobs is something that will be vigorously opposed by the NBRU," he said.

"If it announces there's going to be tendering, we'll have no choice but to ballot in Bus Éireann for industrial action. I can't control the reaction of the people in Dublin Bus and Irish Rail. They will have a view, this is the thin end of the wedge."

The NTA said it intended to award Bus Éireann with a five-year contract from 2019 to operate services, with the caveat that the contract would be amended in 2021 to reduce services by up to 10pc in the Dublin commuter belt.

Services likely to be affected would be those serving Dublin and Dundalk, Drogheda, Balbriggan, Wicklow, Arklow and Wexford. The routes would be subject to a public tender, which Bus Éireann could enter, it added.

Documents released by the transport authority state that while cost savings through outsourcing routes can be secured, they are often negated following the award of subsequent contracts. It said it would review Go-Ahead services in operation before deciding whether more services would be outsourced.

It also suggested that improved service levels would drive efficiencies in other transport operators.

The NTA said there would be no further outsourcing of existing Dublin Bus services, after some were outsourced earlier this year. These will also be operated by Go-Ahead.

However, the NTA has yet to decide if any new services within the city will be operated by the incumbent, or put out to tender. Submissions on proposals to buscontracts2019@ nationaltransport.ie should be made by October 30.

Irish Independent

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