THE State is planning to provide depots to private bus firms who take over public routes.
The National Transport Authority (NTA) has begun the process of advertising 34 bus routes, or 10pc of services operated by Dublin Bus and Bus Éireann, to private operators.
The routes serve Dublin and the surrounding commuter area as well as Waterford city.
Firms can now fill out a pre-registration form online as the first stage in the competition process begins.
The NTA confirmed it is considering a rental scheme for companies that don't have depots. There are concerns that private operators will not have the necessary depots to house bus fleets - and that Dublin Bus and Bus Éireann would have an unfair advantage in the tendering phase due to facilities provided by the State.
The NTA says it is seeking out potential depots and may "secure" such sites "for the benefit of the operator".
"It shall be a condition of the contract that the operator maintain secure depot facilities throughout the duration of the contract," the NTA's tender documents, published online yesterday, state. "The authority is endeavouring to identify, and may secure for the benefit of the operator, sites for such depots.
"It is envisaged that candidates will be entitled (and may be obliged by the authority) to identify and secure appropriate depots and to tender on the basis of such."
A spokesperson for the NTA said: "We're examining the feasibility of providing depot facilities to tenderers where state-provided facilities are not available to them. It's not fair if someone is coming at this with assets that have already been provided by the State. We're just trying to level the playing field so we can compare like with like. We're removing depots as a factor in the price," she said.
It is understood the NTA is not considering buying sites or building new depots but may make facilities available.