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 Header Item Tender Process (Continued)
 Header Item Bus Éireann Services

Wednesday, 12 December 2018

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 976 No. 5

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  11 o’clock

(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Shane Ross: Information on Shane Ross Zoom on Shane Ross] The competitive tendering that has recently been introduced by the NTA into the bus market is happening at the same time as significant growth in public transport services. The market opening will therefore not give rise to a reduction in employee numbers or in services by Bus Éireann or Dublin Bus as they both need drivers to operate new expanded timetables on their remaining routes. Of course, these expanded and intensified services by Bus Éireann or Dublin Bus will be subvented by the NTA, so the 10% market opening will not result in a corresponding reduction in their PSO subsidy, as might otherwise be expected.

  Additional information not given on the floor of the House

The NTA's current direct award public service obligation, PSO, contract with Bus Éireann expires at the end of November 2019. The NTA is required to follow a statutory process underpinned by both EU and national legislation before the direct award contracts may be renewed.

  As part of this process, the NTA launched a public consultation process in early October on the bus services contracts. This consultation informed the NTA's recent decision on the renewal of the contracts, including in respect of the direct award and competitive tender balance of contracts for Bus Éireann.

  Regarding the direct award contracts post 2019 in respect of Bus Éireann, the NTA has announced it will directly award an equivalent service level that the company has in December 2019, amend that contract in 2021 to reduce it by up to 5% of services and provide the removed services through a separate contract following an open competitive tender process.

  It will be open to Bus Éireann to tender for these services if it so wishes.

  The new direct award contracts proposed by the NTA will provide a guaranteed level of PSO funding to Bus Éireann up to 2024.

  As the Deputy is aware, the public transport PSO programme represents a significant expenditure of taxpayers' money. Overall, its funding has increased by some 35% in the past three years. This year €285 million in funding has been allocated towards funding our PSO services.

Deputy Ruth Coppinger: Information on Ruth Coppinger Zoom on Ruth Coppinger Let us talk about Go-Ahead, the company that, under the Minister's watch, has been allowed take over these routes. Go-Ahead starts its bus drivers on €28,000. How is one meant to buy a house in this city or any other city in this country on such a wage? The top rate of pay is €32,000. That is €14,000 less than a Bus Éireann worker could earn after a number of years of service. There are no break facilities. Obviously, the Minister thinks it is fine for a bus driver to pull in and eat a sandwich on the side of the road. In reality, drivers have been leaving the company en masse. They were not able to take over last week the routes they were meant to take over. They are working a 12-hours-a-day roster whereas 11 hours is meant to be the maximum. It just will not work. We have already seen the Ryanair model fall apart. I know the chief executive officer is a good friend of the Minister. There is a revolt by workers and employees of Ryanair against that type of model, and this will not work either.

Deputy Shane Ross: Information on Shane Ross Zoom on Shane Ross I think Michael O'Leary would be absolutely horrified by that description. I do not think he would recognise it as being the case. I have met him a few times, but to describe him as a good friend of mine is-----

Deputy Ruth Coppinger: Information on Ruth Coppinger Zoom on Ruth Coppinger The Minister tweets about him positively.

Deputy Shane Ross: Information on Shane Ross Zoom on Shane Ross -----just inaccurate, and that should not be allowed to stand. I have never been in his house and he has never been in mine. I think I have met him once for a cup of coffee or a light lunch in the past 25 years. I have met him on other occasions which have been businesslike and nothing else. I therefore ask the Deputy not to throw across the floor of the House the allegation that the Minister is in some way compromised by friendship. It is not true. It is not the case at all.

I will answer the Deputy's question and some of the things she has said which are just not correct. She mentioned in her opening remark the privatisation of these companies and routes. There is no privatisation. There is an ongoing tendering process, to which she very accurately referred in her initial question but to which she unfortunately did not refer subsequently. It is a fine tendering process and is not in any way meant to undermine the incumbents, namely Dublin Bus or Bus Éireann. This tendering is for the benefit of the consumers and the passengers and it also benefits the staff. What Go-Ahead has done is introduce 425 new jobs and a large investment in the Irish economy. We must welcome this, and Deputy Coppinger should also welcome it. It is in no way meant to be a privatisation of anything. No assets are changing hands. This is just operators tendering for new routes, some of which they are getting, some of which the incumbents are getting.

Deputy Ruth Coppinger: Information on Ruth Coppinger Zoom on Ruth Coppinger Bus Éireann underbid Go-Ahead by €3 million but Go-Ahead was still given the contract, so it seems to be a rigged system. The NTA does not want Bus Éireann to be able to maintain its own routes. In reality, it is not allowed compete. What is happening is a fragmenting of the network. Bus Éireann is expected to show a profit despite all the challenges of the NTA increasing licences and curtailing Expressway. The NTA guidelines are meant to be cognisant of the public service obligation, which does not seem to have been the case with Go-Ahead. At least with Bus Éireann the surplus money is reinvested into the economy; with companies like Go-Ahead, but specifically with Go-Ahead itself, 83% of the company is stock market-owned. What will happen is that the public service, the taxpayer in effect, will end up subsidising these jobs because many of the workers will have to claim the working family payment. The Minister has nobbled Dublin Bus as well. It is only allowed to make a profit of €1 million and must run its fleet on that. The NTA takes anything above that. Dublin Bus increases its passengers and generates revenue of €20 million and the NTA takes back €19 million. How is this allowing the public service in any way to compete?

The Minister may not be a friend of Mr. O'Leary - I will rephrase that - but he is certainly an admirer and has tweeted very approvingly about the activities of the Ryanair boss, just voted the worst boss in history. My concern is for workers and commuters, who will not have services when they need them.

Acting Chairman (Deputy Eugene Murphy): Information on Eugene Murphy Zoom on Eugene Murphy I did not think this question was about Michael O'Leary at all.

Deputy Ruth Coppinger: Information on Ruth Coppinger Zoom on Ruth Coppinger It is not.

Acting Chairman (Deputy Eugene Murphy): Information on Eugene Murphy Zoom on Eugene Murphy It is about tendering of Bus Éireann routes, so let us stick with it. The Minister has a final minute. We have gone way over time on this question.

Deputy Shane Ross: Information on Shane Ross Zoom on Shane Ross The Acting Chairman is quite correct that it was not about Mr. O'Leary, but I could not allow Deputy Coppinger's statement to be left on the record. I did not introduce the matter. To say I have tweeted admiringly about Mr. O'Leary is equally fatuous. I have tweeted admiringly about the socialist Greek Government as well.

Deputy Ruth Coppinger: Information on Ruth Coppinger Zoom on Ruth Coppinger There is no socialist government in Greece.

Deputy Shane Ross: Information on Shane Ross Zoom on Shane Ross That is a completely different area of the political spectrum, and I am sure the Greek Government believes in many of the same things as Deputy Coppinger.

Thank God public transport is expanding, Bus Éireann and Dublin Bus are expanding and the number of passengers travelling on them is expanding. Go-Ahead is entering a market and, I hope, doing well because it is accommodating a large and growing number of passengers which it is absolutely essential to accommodate. Happily, there is room for all, both the incumbent and its competitors and its new operations, in this new environment. We should be saying "thank God" we have Go-Ahead to do this, to compete and to improve by competition the lot of the passengers, to keep fares down, to help consumers and to provide more jobs.

Acting Chairman (Deputy Eugene Murphy): Information on Eugene Murphy Zoom on Eugene Murphy I say to everyone in the House that the abuse of the time slots is outrageous. It is very hard for a Chair to tolerate. It should be remembered that Deputies accept the rules of the House as set out by the Business Committee. I do not mind giving someone an extra five or ten seconds. The constant breaking of the time slots needs to stop because what colleagues are doing is absolutely ensuring that two, three or four questions will not be answered today. Deputies sit around for these questions to be answered and are then disappointed when the questions are not reached. I therefore appeal to all Deputies to adhere to the time slots. They have 30 seconds to introduce the question, two minutes for the Minister to respond, a one-minute supplementary question, a one-minute reply, a final supplementary question and a final reply. I do not want-----

Deputy Brendan Griffin: Information on Brendan Griffin Zoom on Brendan Griffin Acting Chairman-----

Acting Chairman (Deputy Eugene Murphy): Information on Eugene Murphy Zoom on Eugene Murphy No, I am not having any interruption or intervention. I am moving to question No. 5.

Deputy Brendan Griffin: Information on Brendan Griffin Zoom on Brendan Griffin Chairman, on a point of order-----

Acting Chairman (Deputy Eugene Murphy): Information on Eugene Murphy Zoom on Eugene Murphy No. Deputy Collins has 30 seconds.

Deputy Brendan Griffin: Information on Brendan Griffin Zoom on Brendan Griffin It is a point of order.

Acting Chairman (Deputy Eugene Murphy): Information on Eugene Murphy Zoom on Eugene Murphy I am not allowing a point of order. I call Deputy Collins to put her question.

Deputy Brendan Griffin: Information on Brendan Griffin Zoom on Brendan Griffin Acting Chairman-----

Acting Chairman (Deputy Eugene Murphy): Information on Eugene Murphy Zoom on Eugene Murphy No, I am not taking any point of order. I have made my point. I call Deputy Collins to put her question.

Bus Éireann Services

 5. Deputy Joan Collins Information on Joan Collins Zoom on Joan Collins asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Information on Shane Ross Zoom on Shane Ross if the immediate installation of assault screens on all Bus Éireann services will be ensured; if his initial positive response to a union (details supplied) will be followed up; and when a Garda transport division will be established. [52299/18]

Deputy Joan Collins: Information on Joan Collins Zoom on Joan Collins In response to a letter from Dermot O'Leary of the National Bus and Rail Union, NBRU, on 26 June, the Minister stated:

I have asked my Department to write to the CEO of Iarnród Éireann...and the Chairman of the Railway Safety Advisory Council...to seek their views on the adequacy of the current arrangements for combating anti-social behaviour on our rail network.

  I have also asked my Department to engage with the CEOs of Dublin Bus and Bus Éireann to seek their views... Once I have received their responses, I will, in conjunction with stakeholders, including my colleague, the Minister for Justice and An Garda Síochána, review the measures in place to ensure the safety of all passengers.

What is the current position in this regard?

Deputy Shane Ross: Information on Shane Ross Zoom on Shane Ross I thank the Deputy for her question. It is a serious and worthy one and is along the lines of what we have already heard about the necessity to protect the staff, which is essential and which I agree is not adequate in all cases.

  As Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, I have responsibility for policy on and overall funding of public transport.

  The safety and security of Bus Éireann staff is a matter first and foremost for Bus Éireann in conjunction with, as appropriate, An Garda Síochána.

  Bus Éireann has advised that driver security screens are fitted to the entire low-floor single-deck and double-deck bus fleet.

  I am advised that manufacturers currently do not supply a solution for screens on coaches and consequently screens are not fitted to this fleet type.

  I have been assured that the company will continue to review this with coach manufacturers.


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