Chairperson and members of the committee, thank you for the invitation to attend. I understand that the Committee wishes to focus today upon the impact on transport of the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union. To assist me in dealing with your subsequent questions I am joined by Anneliese Jones, Public Transport Regulation Manager with the Authority.
Before dealing with the specific areas of focus, I would like to set the context by providing a brief overview of the remit of the Authority in this provision of public transport services.
Remit of the Authority
The remit of the National Transport Authority is to regulate and develop the provision of integrated public transport services (bus, rail, light rail and taxi) by public and private operators in the State, to secure the development and implementation of an integrated transport system within the Greater Dublin Area, and to contribute to the effective integration of transport and land use planning across the State.
In addition to its statutory responsibilities, the Authority has various arrangements with the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport to discharge functions on its behalf. This includes the assignment of responsibility to the Authority for integrated local and rural transport, including provision of the Rural Transport Programme.
The Authority is therefore an agency that implements government and departmental policy in line with its legislation. It is the Department of Transport Tourism and Sport that will play a key role in managing any change in legislation or regulation required for the management of cross-border public transport services.
Responsibilities of the Authority with regard to public transport services provision
The Authority is responsible for securing the provision of public transport services through two specified mechanisms:
- public service contracts, where services cannot be provided on a commercial basis, and
- the licensing of public bus services, which are operated on a commercial basis.
The main relevant legislation is the Dublin Transport Authority Act 2008 and the Public Transport Regulation Act 2009 as amended by the Vehicle Clamping Act 2015 and the Public Transport Act 2016.
I would like to now deal with the specific areas of focus raised by the committee.
Cross-border Rail services
Northern Ireland Railways (NIR) operates the Dublin – Belfast service in partnership with Iarnród Éireann. There are currently 8 services per day Monday to Saturday in each direction with 5 services in each direction on Sundays. The distribution of the revenue and costs of the service are agreed between both parties. This arrangement can continue post withdrawal of the UK from the EU.
Cross-border Bus Services
Cross-border bus services are regulated at an EU level under Regulation (EC) No 1073/2009. The National Transport Authority is the designated competent authority to issue authorisations and control documents (Journey Form books, formerly known as Waybills) and to authorise cabotage operations under this regulation. The Department for Infrastructure in Northern Ireland is the competent authority for Northern Ireland.
Currently all bus and coach traffic to and from the UK is regulated by Regulation (EC) No. 1073 2009, on the common rules for access to the international market for coach and bus services.
This Regulation sets out the categories, applicable circumstances, requirements, and procedures to issue Authorisations and control documents to enable international travel within the EU.
As part of the procedure to evaluate an Authorisation, explicit protections are given regarding competition between such a service and any comparable service provided under one or more public service contracts.
The Regulation also sets out the circumstances under which cabotage services are permitted. These are limited, as cabotage is only permitted:
- as part of an international service, provided that cabotage is not the principal purpose of the service; and
- cannot be a:
- transport service meeting the needs of an urban centre or conurbation; or
- transport needs between urban centre or conurbation and the surrounding areas.
The Interbus Agreement has been suggested by the UK as a possible replacement for EU Regulation 1073. It applies to international carriage of passengers by road by means of authorisation; occasional services; and unladen journeys of the buses and coaches concerned with these services between a non-EU Member State and an EU Member State.
It does not apply to national services, the use of buses and coaches designed to carry passengers for the transport of goods for commercial purposes, or to own-account occasional services.
The following provisions within the Interbus agreement would require clarification, if it was agreed as the proposed replacement agreement:
- The evidenced based rational for granting or refusing an application.
- Inclusion of own-account transport.
- The grounds upon which an operator could temporarily be denied access to a territory and the maximum duration of such a suspension.
The Authority would have serious concerns regarding the imposition of the Interbus model on the domestic market as that would render the PTR Act defunct, with the result that the Authority could not regulate competition between commercial providers in the public interest based on the demand or potential demand for services, as is the case at the moment. The PTR Act 2009 has created a level playing field where a diverse and vibrant commercial bus sector with a growing number of commercial operators holding route public bus passenger licences.
Impact of a hard border
The introduction of a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland would have a very significant impact on cross-border public transport services as it would be impossible to deliver reliable journey times for passengers. The growth in cross border bus and rail services would be significantly curtailed if not reversed following the imposition of custom checks at the border.
The regulation of the small public service vehicle industry is Ireland is covered by the Taxi Regulation Act 2013 and the Small Public Service Vehicle (Consolidation and Reform) Regulations 2014. Currently, a licensed taxi driver in Northern Ireland and in the Republic of Ireland can pick up passengers in their own jurisdiction and can drop a passenger within the other jurisdiction. There would be a requirement for primary legislation to regularise this arrangement post withdrawal of the UK from the EU.
In April 2017 the all-Ireland Free Travel Scheme for seniors resident in all parts of the island was introduced. The scheme enables seniors (66+) resident in the Republic to travel free of charge on all bus and rail services in Northern Ireland. Likewise, seniors (65+) in the North can travel free of charge on bus, rail, air and ferry services participating in the Free Travel scheme in this State. The Northern Ireland authorities require that DSP customers wishing to avail of free travel in Northern Ireland should do so using a similar Smartpass as used by their Northern counterparts.
That concludes my introductory presentation. I trust that we can answer any queries that arise.