Tuesday 12 December 2017

State body claims there will be 'no gap in services' when Bus Éireann axes three routes

Bus Eireann has proposed shutting three loss-making services to save more than one million euro
Bus Eireann has proposed shutting three loss-making services to save more than one million euro

Anne-Marie Walsh

The state body that issues bus licences has insisted there will be no gap in services when Bus Éireann axes three routes in the near future and denied it issues licences at the "drop of a hat".

The Chief Executive of the National Transport Authority, Anne Graham, also denied that it has "saturated" the market on inter-city corridors served by Expressway.

Bus Éireann has confirmed it will get rid of services between Dublin and Clonmel, Athlone and Westport and Dublin and Derry to make immediate savings of €1.1m as it faces insolvency.

Speaking ahead of an Oireachtas Committee, Tim Gaston, Director of Public Transport Services at the National Transport Authority said that it will hold meetings with the company to discuss services that face withdrawal as soon as possible. However, he said the services may not be as frequent although the connection between locations would be maintained. He said in some cases more frequent services may be offered.

When a withdrawal of services took place, Chief Executive of the NTA, Anne Graham, said it could amend the company's existing public service obligation contract Bus Éireann to provide services locally, tender for new public service obligation services or provide new local link services.

In her submission to the Joint Committee on Transport Tourism and Sport this morning, she said the notion that there is “saturation” on the inter-city corridors served by Expressway services, and that the authority grants licences to operators at the drop of a hat, does not stand up to scrutiny.

She said since 2011, the authority has rejected almost as many applications for licences on these key routes as it has granted.

Ms Graham said overall passenger numbers have increased in many cases in these markets, including on the Cork to Dublin corridor and Limerick to Dublin routes.

“In other words, rather than saturating the market, what we have actually done is increase public transport capacity, and in so doing enabled many more journeys to be undertaken on the bus network," she said.

She said Bus Éireann commercial services like Expressway account for only 19pc of all the company's passengers, with 81pc on routes subsidised under a public service obligation contract.

“This will not change, and these services are under no threat,” she said.

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