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Transport Minister says NTA will make sure 'no town is left behind' after Bus Éireann axes certain routes

Eamon Ryan confirmed that €460 million is needed to keep public transport running until the end of the year.

File photo of a Bus Éireann Expressway bus in Dublin.
File photo of a Bus Éireann Expressway bus in Dublin.
Image: Sam Boal/RollingNews.ie

TRANSPORT MINISTER EAMON Ryan has said the National Transport Authority (NTA) will make sure “no town is left behind” after it emerged Bus Éireann plans to close a number of its intercity routes in the coming months for financial reasons.

The company’s Expressway services between Dublin and Cork, Dublin and Galway and Dublin and Limerick are to cease, and the Dublin to Belfast service is to be suspended indefinitely.

A Bus Éireann spokesperson yesterday said the measure is “being taken in response to significant medium-term challenges posed by Covid-19 in order to safeguard Expressway’s remaining 14 national routes and meet demand required on other city and commuter services”.

Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland today, Ryan said Bus Éireann’s board made the decision so the company could manage its resources in the most effective way and “meet new demand”.

“They have about 18 national Expressway commercial routes. And yes, they’re pulling out of four but it’s to consolidate the other 14, but also to introduce new bus services in Galway, Limerick and Cork.”

Ryan said some bus drivers will be redeployed but additional drivers will also be taken on by the company. 

The Green Party leader said the NTA will make sure no area is left without a service. 

“If there are any towns or other areas which do miss out, where there isn’t a service, we’ve asked the National Transport Authority to review and make sure that no town is left behind, that there is actually no gaps in the service in the network.”

He added that some of the towns served by the Bus Éireann routes being cut are served by a train service or a service from another bus company. 

Financial support 

Ryan said the decision by Bus Éireann to alter its services is not due to a lack of financial support from the government. 

“There wasn’t any lack of financial support hindering what the company could do, but I did think that we have to let them actually put the resources to where they think they’re  best used.”

Ryan confirmed that €460 million is needed to keep public transport running until the end of the year, adding that the government will make that available.

“It is an exceptional year, €300 million is the ordinary subsidy each year to public transport. This year an additional €460 million will go in and as I said, there will be no shortage during the Covid crisis of similar support next year to maintain our public service, we need to do that,” the minister said. 

A Bus Éireann spokesperson yesterday said no exact dates for the changes to come into effect have been determined as of yet but are likely to be early next year when current emergency supports from the government to the Cork, Limerick and Galway routes expire.

The X51 service from Galway to Limerick and the X1 service Dublin to Belfast have not been in receipt of emergency funding and services will formally cease on these routes over the next few months.

Private companies 

The National Bus and Rail Union (NBRU) hit out at the decision and yesterday called on the government to intervene.

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General Secretary Dermot O’Leary said the NBRU “has been warning that the threat to a number of communities’ bus services has been evident for a number of years”.

The NBRU previously suggested that market saturation would “lead to the demise of those off-motorway bus services that serve the intermediate towns and villages” not served by other companies, O’Leary noted.

He said the issuing of licences to private companies meant “capacity outstripped demand on a number of those inter-urban corridors” such as services from Cork, Limerick and Galway to Dublin.

“Bus Éireann, not least because of its State-ownership model and its social contract to supply the nations bus service, was morally expected to continue to serve those towns and villages not deemed to be profit-worthy by the multinational bus operators,” O’Leary said.

Ryan today said a lot of private bus companies “have grown in recent years are doing a good job”.

“They’re often maybe meeting needs where there hasn’t been a service previously, and they too, like Bus Éireann, were expanding their services and were starting to connect new routes.

“I don’t think the public was best served if we said ‘no you can’t have additional bus services’, so it isn’t one versus the other in my mind.

“I fervently believe, absolutely believe, in the strength and importance of our public transport companies and public transport”, he said, adding that “a public service that has to meet social needs”.

Ryan said there is “no shortage or no lack of support” for State-subsidised companies such as Bus Éireann, Irish Rail or Dublin Bus, but added: “I don’t think that precludes us also supporting other companies who provide important public services.”

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Órla Ryan

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