COMMUTERS let out a sigh of relief today as the bus strike was suspended for 48 hours to allow for crunch talks.
Bus Eireann unions were locked in intensive talks today with management to try and hammer out an agreement to end strike action.
Services have been severely disrupted over the last two days due to a strike by members of the National Bus and Rail Union (NRBU) in response to cost reduction measures introduced without agreement on Sunday.
Bus Eireann was left hamstrung, with 70,000 passengers, stranded or inconvenienced by the stoppage.
However, following late night talks at the LRC, both management and unions agreed to "pull back" for 48 hours in a bid to resolve issue.
Transport Minister Leo Varadkar said today that he was hopeful of a settlement in the Bus Eireann dispute.
He said that the LRC has intervened in this dispute, and "that's why it's very important that we have an agreement on this occasion, and that it is a lasting agreement that delivers the savings that are necessary," he said.
He added that it's "the only way we can protect services for passengers, and it's the only way we can protect the jobs for the workers in Bus Eireann.
"It's the only way we can ensure the long term viability of Bus Eireann as a company."
Bus Eireann said that the vast majority of its services were operating as normal this morning. Representatives from the NBRU, SIPTU and management were engaged in intensive discussions at the LRC today.
Bus Eireann spokesman Andrew McLindon said the discussions would be intense. He said that while the talks would not be easy, the future of the company was at stake.
Mr McLindon said the company was in a difficult financial situation and the industrial dispute has cost it "effectively €500,000 at a time when we're already losing approximately €500,000 a month so time is of the essence on this."
"That's why it's a very short, sharp process of 48 hours where we'll all sit down and try to get agreement on this so we can bring in the cost saving measures designed to protect the future of the company."
The company said that: "All commuter services in the greater Dublin area are operating, and it said that all inter- city services from Dublin are operating."
In addition, it said that all services in Cork, Galway, Limerick, Sligo, Mayo, Donegal, Clare and Kerry are operating normally, as well as all school transport services.
Bus Eireann is seeking a 20pc cut to a range of allowance and expense payments, a reduction of overtime rates, longer working hours and a cut in shift payments.
The Government has also warned that the bus firm lost €27m over the past five years, and would not be financially viable if it did not impose cuts.