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€1bn firm faces €800 fine for 'illegal' bus service

A COMPANY accused of running an "illegal" bus service has been ordered to appear in court this month.

But Citylink would be forced to pay fines totalling just €800 if convicted in Galway District Court on January 25 next.

Citylink faces charges of not having a licence for a non-stop route between Galway and Dublin, with paltry fines of just €65.30 and €6.35 each day for a continuing offence.

The company is owned by the world's second largest transport group, ComfortDelGro, which had a turnover of $1.5bn (€1bn) in 2008.

Citylink started operating a non-stop service from Dublin to Galway on October 1 last, and it is claimed by local bus operators, Bus Eireann and the Department of Transport that the service is not licensed.

The company holds six licences, three of which relate to the Galway-Dublin route.

Citylink says the licences allow it to operate a non-stop service and claims that other operators have been running a service without a licence but have not been prosecuted.

Spokesman Mark Bushell said: "We have a detailed record of other companies and we've gone to the Department of Transport and said they are operating without a licence but the department has said there is nothing it can do.

"The details of the licensing are pretty grey. They can be interpreted in different ways and it seems different interpretations are put for different companies."

The company is charged under Section 7 of the 1932 Road Transport Act for not having a licence.

A fine not exceeding €63.50 can be imposed together with, in the case of a continuing offence, a further fine not exceeding €6.35 for every day during which the offence continues.

The 1932 Act will be replaced by the Public Transport Regulation Bill, currently in the Houses of the Oireachtas, which will reform the bus licensing system. Applications at present can take up to two years to process.

Under the new regime, bus routes are likely to be tendered out, with private and public companies -- including Dublin Bus and Bus Eireann -- allowed to bid for them.

Irish Independent