Statement by National Transport Authority on bus services in rural communities

11 January 2017

Tim Gaston, Director of Public Transport Services said:

“Suggestions that decisions made by the National Transport Authority (NTA) in granting commercial licences to bus operators have been to blame for the difficulties being experienced by Bus Éireann, simply do not stand up to scrutiny.

“The notion that there is saturation on the inter-city corridors served by Expressway services, and that the NTA grants licences to operators at the drop of a hat, is well wide of the mark.

“In fact since 2011, we have rejected almost as many applications for licences on these key routes, as we have granted.

“In any case, over 80 per cent of Bus Éireann passengers travel on their subsidised services, which are under no threat whatsoever, with just 19 per cent using their commercial services such as Expressway.

“Our primary responsibility in law is to the travelling public, and when we assess an application for a commercial licence, we do so with this in mind, while looking at a whole range of considerations including likely passenger demand, impact on existing services and impact on subsidised services.

“It has consistently been the case that where new licences are issued in these markets, that overall passenger numbers have increased, in many cases, very significantly. For example, between 2012 and 2015, total bus passenger numbers on the Cork Dublin Corridor increased by 61 per cent, while on the Limerick Dublin Corridor, they increased by 50 per cent.

“In other words, rather than saturating the market, what we have actually done is increase public transport capacity, and in so doing enabled many more journeys to be undertaken on the bus network.

“Unfortunately, there has been some level of confusion in discourse around Bus Éireann in recent days and weeks, and it is crucial to reassure the company’s customers, particularly in rural areas by looking at the facts of the matter.

“Bus Éireann commercial services like Expressway, account for only 19 per cent of all the company’s passengers.

“81 per cent of Bus Éireann passengers are on routes subsidised under the Public Service Obligation (PSO) Contract that the company has entered with NTA.

“This will not change, and these services are under no threat. In fact they have been a huge success story in recent years, with passenger numbers continuing to increase. Last week the NTA published figures for 2016, which indicated a 5.5 per cent increase in passengers on Bus Éireann subsidised services, jumping from 30.2m in 2015 to 32m last year.

“Subvention for these services by the NTA to Bus Éireann increased from €34m in 2014, to €40m in 2016. And that figure is likely to go up again in 2017. The NTA successfully made a case for an increase from the state for PSO funding, and this year we will be allocating €262.6m in public transport subsidies to operators including Bus Éireann, up from €236.6 in 2016.

“If it is the case that some Expressway services are discontinued at local level, NTA will, as our track record proves, step in and ensure that local demands for public transport are met. We will not leave any rural communities behind.

“It is the duty of the NTA to ensure that as many people as possible, in all parts of this country, have access to a safe, reliable and value-for-money public transport service, and we will continue to discharge our responsibilities in that regard, without fear or favour.”