Statement from Hugh Creegan, Deputy Chief Executive, National Transport Authority
Thank you for the invitation to attend. I understand that the Committee wishes to focus upon two areas in particular, firstly inter-urban and Expressway commercial bus services and secondly the co-ordination of rural transport services with the expressway network. To assist me in dealing with your subsequent questions I am joined by Tim Gaston who manages public transport services within 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.
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.
Responsibilities of the Authority with regard to public bus services provision
The Authority is responsible for securing the provision of public bus 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.
In licensing commercial bus services, it is important to note that the relevant legislation requires the Authority to seek to achieve, in the public interest, regulated competition in the provision of such services.
I would like to now deal with the specific areas of focus raised by the committee.
Bus services provided by Bus Éireann under its Expressway brand are commercial services and are licensed by the Authority in exactly the same manner as all other commercial bus services. Licences sets out the nature of the service and conditions under which a licensed public bus passenger service must operate, such as the point of origin and destination as well as timetable and stopping place details.
The majority of interurban services, including those between the regional cities and Dublin City plus Dublin Airport, are provided on a commercial basis. Bus Éireann and a number of private operators provide these services which are licensed by the Authority.
Co-ordination of services
In exercising its functions the Authority seeks to achieve the provision of an integrated public transport system of services and networks for all users. Wherever appropriate, we seek to integrate and coordinate services to provide for seamless travel options where change of bus and/or mode is required. This includes the operation of rural transport services (“Local Link”), which can facilitate connecting to mainline inter-urban services, irrespective of the provider of those services, and including, but not limited to, Expressway.
Rural Transport Programme – “Local Link”
The objective of the Rural Transport Programme is to provide a good quality nationwide community based public transport system in rural Ireland which responds to local needs. In 2015, funding of €10.7 million was provided through the Authority for the programme. The Rural Transport Programme came under the aegis of the Authority in April 2012. The programme was managed by Pobal on our behalf initially and since January 2014 is now directly managed by the Authority. A restructuring strategy was launched in July 2013.
Since assuming responsibility, we have focussed on restructuring the programme to provide greater efficiency and effectiveness. The restructuring programme included the establishment of 17 Transport Co-ordination Units which replaced the 35 Rural Transport groups previously managing the programme. Local passenger services are managed by the relevant Transport Co-ordination Unit in each area on behalf of the Authority. This restructuring has positioned the programme to better integrate with other public transport services, and provides a solid base to expand or adapt services to meet current and future identified needs.
Now that the organisational restructuring has been completed, we are focussed on optimising the services provided, within the funding envelope available. A review of services is currently in progress to ensure that they are meeting user requirements and our objectives.
Transport Co-ordination Units work closely with the local authorities on the assessment of local transport needs, including the needs of those that are socially excluded. With the benefit of this local collaboration, we expect to make considerable progress, throughout 2016, on refining, and expanding where appropriate, the operation of local transport services, in addition to ensuring the optimal level of integration with the other public transport services.
That concludes my introductory presentation. I trust that we can answer any queries that arise.