NTA responds to planned Bus Éireann route changes

The authority says there is a public service obligation to continue to offer services between Westport and Athlone

NTA responds to planned Bus Éireann route changes

Photo: Sam Boal/RollingNews.ie

The National Transport Authority (NTA) this afternoon said they are ready to put forward proposals to retain services on routes affected by cost-cutting measures at Bus Éireann. 

Yesterday, management announced a number of further significant measures - including plans to close three routes and reduce another two over the coming months.

The cuts come as management attempts to address the "perilous state" of the company’s finances.

Unions have said they will take part in an all-out strike from next week if the company proceeds with "far reaching and financially impactful measures" for employees.

Image: NTA

Responding to the planned route closures, the NTA says it appears there are sufficient alternative services to meet demand on four of the affected routes.

However, it suggests there is a public service obligation to continue to offer services on Route 21 between Westport and Athlone.

"The Authority is planning to provide 4 services per day in each direction from Westport to Athlone supplemented by 2 services per day in each direction on route 440A from Westport to Ireland West Airport Knock," the NTA says in its initial assessment.

It adds that the authority will consider amending the existing public service obligation to meet demand on the route.

NTA Chief Executive Anne Graham observed: “When the prospect of reductions to Expressway services was raised recently, the NTA said that we would step in, establish the extent to which these changes gave rise to gaps in public service coverage, and bring forward proposals to fill those gaps. Today, we are doing precisely that.

“There remains some time and space over the coming days, for the parties to resolve this dispute. I would urge them, for the sake of the travelling public to use this opportunity to get around the negotiating table and engage with each other, so that passengers are not unnecessarily inconvenienced," she added.

Transport Minister

Meanwhile, there is renewed pressure on the Transport Minister to intervene in the Bus Éireann dispute.

So far the current Minister has refused to be drawn into the cost-cutting argument, despite threats by unions to go on all-out strike from Monday if the changes are imposed.

A spokesperson for Shane Ross said in a statement yesterday: "The Minister welcomes the Board’s willingness to undertake further discussions and again encourages the employer and employees to engage urgently in a constructive manner."

He has previously insisted he will not intervene and will not take out the taxpayers cheque book.

However, Fianna Fáil's Robert Troy believes he is going to have to.

"The deficit that's there - the €30 million deficit that has been identified... the gap is not going to be closed simply between the unions and the management."

The Joint Committee on Transport will meet with Minister Ross to continue their talks on the Bus Éireann crisis.

Committee Chairman Brendan Griffin said: "We will have a chance to resume our discussions with Minister Ross and put to him our concerns about how this proposed strike will affect the company, the staff, the public and the wider economy.

"A resolution, through engagement and dialogue, simply needs to be found and without delay."