Thursday 22 March 2018

Trade union fears proposed privatisation of bus routes 'could lead to demise of Dublin Bus and Bus Eireann' - court

Bus Eireann drivers picket Bus Aras in Dublin. Photo:Arthur Carron/Collins
Bus Eireann drivers picket Bus Aras in Dublin. Photo:Arthur Carron/Collins

Tim Healy

A trade union has launched a legal challenge to the proposed privatisation of bus routes by the National Transport Authority (NTA).

The National Bus and Rail Workers Union (NBRU) claims the NTA's the decision - to subject almost 30 routes to public tender - breaches the exclusive rights to operate the routes guaranteed to Bus Eireann and Dublin Bus.

The routes include those in Dublin's commuter and outer metropolitan areas, and in Waterford City.

The NBRU claims the exclusive operation rights were conferred under provisions of the Dublin Transport Authority Act 2008.

In correspondence with the union, lawyers for the NTA said it is entitled to make the decisions it made to invite tenders for the routes.

The High Court heard that following the NTA's decision contract notices inviting tenders for the routes were issued.

The award contracts are due to be made in April 2016.

The NBRU says it has launched the action because of it's concerns about the effects of privatising routes currently operated by the State bus companies.  It fears the decisions could lead to the demise of both Dublin Bus and Bus Eireann.

The NBRU, and one of its 3,000 members Pauric Wall, who operates a route between Tullamore and Dublin for Bus Eireann, seeks orders quashing three decisions by the NTA  made on January 22 last to subject certain routes to a tender process.

They also seek declarations, including that the NTA acted outside of its powers.

Eileen Barrington SC, for the union and Mr Wall, said it was their case  the NTA has erred in law  and has adopted an interpretation of the 2008 Act which is not legally correct, and was inconsistent.

The NBRU also says the NTA was also incorrect that it must put out certain routes to tender in order to comply with an EU Regulation.

The regulation, the NBRU says, does not require member states to privatise public passenger transport services as claimed by the NTA. 

Permission to bring the action was granted, on an ex parte (one-side only represented) basis, by Mr Justice Seamus Noonan who made the matter returnable to June.

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