TRANSPORT officials have defended moves to privatise a raft of bus routes – most of which are in Dublin and Waterford.
One in ten of the routes operated by Dublin Bus and Bus Eireann will be privatised next year, with the tendering process starting in December.
Unions are opposed to the idea saying that the plan is "flawed" and will impact on their members pay and job security.
The National Transport Authority (NTA) also refused to rule out the prospect of a further wave of privatisation involving the country's bus services.
NTA chief executive Gerry Murphy told an Oireachtas Committee that all savings from the process will be injected back into bus services. "I can guarantee the service will be exactly the same, what it [privatising] may do is help us realise savings that we can use to improve services," he told the committee.
"Every penny we realise in savings we can put back into the services," he added.
While Mr Murphy said that there is no immediate "ambitions" to increase the number of routes that are privatised, he indicated that further privatisation may have to be looked at.
Mr Murphy insisted that successful tender will not be in a position to set fares or the frequency of routes.
"The authority will apply the same level of control and centralised planning to the tendered routes as it does to the routes which are presented by the two CIE companies," he said.
"We will pre-determine the routes, the schedules, the vehicle types and standards, the fares and the customer service requirements. A contracted operator will have no say in fares or routes or frequencies."
Sinn Fein TD for Dublin North West, Dessie Ellis, said he believed the NTA and the government are set upon "cutting bus routes to bits".
"I don't know who is responsible, I expect the minister is partly behind it. It's my own opinion that it's driven by a FG minister who has an ultimate goal of privatisation," he said.
It was confirmed that Dublin Bus and Bus Eireann can compete for the contract when the tendering process begins in December.