Do I need a licence?

The Public Transport Regulation Act 2009 (PTR Act 2009) states that a public bus passenger service may only be provided in accordance with a licence.

A public bus passenger service is defined, under section 2 of the PTR Act 2009, as the use of a bus or buses for the transport of passengers in such a manner that:

  • Each journey is open to use by members of the public
  • A charge or charges are paid in respect of each passenger, save where the Authority otherwise determines
  • The service is provided on a regular and scheduled basis
  • A carriage is provided for passengers between specified terminal points or a specified route, or otherwise in accordance with a published timetable.

All public bus passenger services require a bus licence as per the PTR Act 2009except for:

  • Those provided solely for the transport of children to or from school (please note this exclusion does not apply to third level institutions)
  • Those that are subject to a public services contract, entered under section 48 of the Dublin Transport Authority Act 2008
  • International services (authorised under EU Regulations)
  • Private hire services, where a bus is hired on behalf of a group, for a fee that is determined separate to the number of passengers carried.

Why would you need to apply for a licence or a licence amendment?

There are 4 main reasons:

  1. It is an offence under the under the PTR Act, 2009 to:
  • Provide an unlicensed service
  • Not comply with the licensing conditions of any existing licence
  • Alter the provision of a service without obtaining an amended licence beforehand

A person who commits an offence is liable, on summary conviction, to a fine up to €5,000 per offence.

Both the person committing the offence and the corporate body is liable to be prosecuted. The Authority may bring proceedings and prosecute the offence(s).

Any public bus passenger service that you wish to provide, which is not explicitly licensed, should be subject of:

  • A new licence application, if you do not have a licence
  • An amendment application, if you already have a licence and you wish to change the service you are providing. For example a timetable, route, stops, nominate a subcontractor or add extra buses.

The licensing process allows the Authority to make essential checks, including whether the service you propose is safe for passengers.

  1. It is good for your business.

Being fully compliant to the licensing regime gives you access to a range of initiatives provided by the Authority, which have the potential to cut down on your business costs (for example, advertising) and increase your customer base.

These could include:

  • The addition of your service to the TFI National Journey Planner. It has approximately 1 million trip searches each month, is published on the Transport for Ireland website, is linked to Google Transit and other web services
  • The ability to apply for inclusion in the TFI Leap scheme (integrated ticketing). The TFI Leap scheme includes a reporting function, which can help you monitor your business.

However, please note that the Authority will only consider licensed public transport services for inclusion in the above initiatives when it is satisfied that these services are fully compliant and meet the criteria for the initiatives.

  1. Not complying with the law may affect your future applications for licenses, amendments or renewal of your current license(s).

Under the PTR Act, 2009, the Authority may not consider an application unless the applicant establishes, to the Authority’s’ satisfaction, that they have complied with national and international legislation on road transport.

On applying to renew a license a signed statement of compliance, to confirm adherence with all the conditions of the licence, must be submitted.

In considering an application to renew an existing licence, the Authority takes into account the degree to which the public bus passenger service has been provided in line with licence conditions.

  1. Another operator may apply and be granted a licence before you.

When deciding whether to grant a licence for a particular public bus passenger service, the Authority has to take into consideration the demand or potential demand for that particular service. It also has to take into consideration how this demand is being met by the existing licensed or contracted public transport services.

The Authority cannot take into consideration any services which are unlicensed or not explicitly included on an existing licence.

Having a licence does not guarantee you exclusivity on the route, but it does guarantee that the Authority will consider the service you are providing as part of its determination of the demand or potential demand for additional services.

Please see the Public Transport Regulation Act 2009Authority’s Guidelines for the Licensing of Public Bus Passenger Services and the Brief Guide Public Bus Passenger Services for more information.