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 Header Item Departmental Funding (Continued)
 Header Item Public Service Obligation Services
 Header Item Transport Policy

Wednesday, 12 December 2018

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 976 No. 5

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív: Information on Éamon Ó Cuív Zoom on Éamon Ó Cuív] Can the Minister confirm that the amount sanctioned this year for greenways and dedicated cycleways was €3.65 million across the State, and that the expenditure was €3.2 million? That was the question and that is the answer I want confirmed on the record of the Dáil. He must remember I represent the whole country, as we all do, including the Minister. Can he tell me that those are the facts and stick to the question that has been asked of him?

Acting Chairman (Deputy Eugene Murphy): Information on Eugene Murphy Zoom on Eugene Murphy Before the Minister responds, there are three Deputies sitting here who will not get their questions in. Deputies, and not only the Minister, continue to exceed the time. The Minister has one minute. I ask him to limit it to one minute because I want to accommodate those who have been sitting here. We will not keep within the time limit if the Deputies do not co-operate.

Deputy Shane Ross: Information on Shane Ross Zoom on Shane Ross The figure quoted of €3.65 million, which the Deputies had an answer to already, does not recognise the number of authorities which have committed to applying for greenway funding. I repeat for Deputy Ó Cuív - it would be good if he acknowledged this - that Galway County Council has gone for two, Kerry County Council for three, Donegal County Council for three and Wexford County Council for two. I congratulate the Deputy for all he did for greenways in his time in government but for some reason, he magicked all this funding out of the air. Fianna Fáil overspent when it was in government. We will not spend money we do not have.

Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív: Information on Éamon Ó Cuív Zoom on Éamon Ó Cuív We were producing large surpluses.

Acting Chairman (Deputy Eugene Murphy): Information on Eugene Murphy Zoom on Eugene Murphy I would appeal to the three Deputies left to love their colleagues for the next 15 minutes, keep their questions as brief as possible and we will get all their questions in.

Public Service Obligation Services

 10. 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 his views on amending the Dublin Transport Authority Act 2008 to provide that no direct award of public service contracts for public transport passenger services in excess of 10% will continue in view of his comments that he has no ideological position on the privatisation of public transport. [52116/18]

Deputy Joan Collins: Information on Joan Collins Zoom on Joan Collins This question relates to privatisation and when privatisation is not privatisation. It is amazing the play on words by both the Minister and the CEO of the NTA, who have consistently stated that bus services have not been privatised and have only been tendered out, and a private company happens to have won that tender even though Bus Éireann underbid it by €3 million. Its workers face lower wages and worse terms and conditions than their colleagues in Dublin Bus.

Deputy Shane Ross: Information on Shane Ross Zoom on Shane Ross It is a statutory function of the NTA, under the Dublin Transport Authority Act 2008 and EU Regulation 1370/2007, to award PSO contracts and to determine the appropriate mix of directly awarded and competitively tendered PSO services.

As I mentioned in an earlier response, the PSO programme represents a significant expenditure of taxpayers' money and has increased by 35% in the past three years. Some €285 million in funding has been allocated toward funding our PSO services in 2018.

International experience indicates that introducing competitive tension into our PSO bus market, that is, a mixture of direct award and then competitively tendered contracts, should allow us to capture potential benefits as regards value in the use of taxpayers' money in securing the provision of PSO services.

It is well-recognised that good public transport is a key enabler of both social inclusion and economic progress and opening up the bus market forms part of the Government's commitment to improving our public transport system and services.

It is important to note that neither Dublin Bus nor Bus Éireann is being privatised. Competitive tendering is not privatisation, as nothing is being sold, services are not being deregulated and control remains with the NTA.

We are placing passengers at the centre of our public transport policy and the recent arrival of Go Ahead into the bus market introduces competitive tendering, not privatisation, and encourages everybody to focus on his or her customer's needs. It also encourages innovation and improvements to service quality for bus passengers.

I remind the Deputy that all public transport services, whether they are provided by direct award contracts or through competitive tender, will continue to be regulated by the NTA in order that Leap, free travel pass, real-time information, etc., will all continue to operate on these services and fares will continue to be regulated by NTA.

The NTA has the statutory responsibility to award PSO contracts and to determine the appropriate mix of directly awarded and competitively tendered PSO services. Under the law, this is not an area in which I have a role and I have no plans to change the law in this regard.

Deputy Joan Collins: Information on Joan Collins Zoom on Joan Collins It can be changed. The Minister could amend the Dublin Transport Authority Act 2008 to stop further competitive tendering so that when this 10% tender won by Go Ahead next goes to tender, serious consideration could be given to the competitive tendering of Bus Éireann. In this case, Bus Éireann under bid the Go Ahead company by €3 million, had the staff and had good pay and working conditions. The assaults on drivers is an aspect of conditions that the company can improve. Certainly, the Minister can intervene in a way that directs the NTA to change what it is doing.

The Minister must bear in mind that drivers start at €28,000 in Go Ahead. Their maximum, at €32,000, is €14,000 less than Dublin Bus drivers earn. Their conditions are different. They do not have proper breaks and the Organisation of Working Time Act 1997 must be examined in respect of the hours that these drivers work.

Acting Chairman (Deputy Eugene Murphy): Information on Eugene Murphy Zoom on Eugene Murphy I thank Deputy Collins for her co-operation.

Deputy Shane Ross: Information on Shane Ross Zoom on Shane Ross I do not have an ideological position on this.

Deputy Joan Collins: Information on Joan Collins Zoom on Joan Collins The Minister keeps saying that.

Deputy Shane Ross: Information on Shane Ross Zoom on Shane Ross It is quite obvious that I do not have an ideological position on this. I keep being accused by Members of having some sort of privatisation agenda. What is happening here is that there has been competitive tendering. Routes have gone out to tender and, as the Deputy will be aware, the incumbent is entitled to bid for those routes. The incumbents bid for those routes. In certain cases, the incumbent, Dublin Bus or Bus Éireann, has won those bids. In others, it has not, but that is what competitive tendering is about. It is absurd to suggest there is some sort of a privatisation agenda when Dublin Bus or Bus Éireann wins the competitive tender. We only want to do the best for the customer, the taxpayer and the staff.

Deputy Joan Collins: Information on Joan Collins Zoom on Joan Collins I challenge the Minister on that. It is the words used. The Minister spoke of the "PSO bus market". We do not have a bus market. Our public transport service needs to be protected, developed and funded, and needs more buses on routes, which is important as the cuts that have been made since the austerity years. More buses are needed on our streets. That determines the thinking behind this and the NTA's thinking as well. We must get away from thinking of the PSO bus market.

We must make the point repeatedly that the Government has a public service obligation to provide public transport. It is crucial to climate change and in trying to get people out of their cars to have a proper, well-funded and well-run public transport system to serve the people of this city and the country.

Acting Chairman (Deputy Eugene Murphy): Information on Eugene Murphy Zoom on Eugene Murphy I note Deputy Collins's co-operation with the Chair.

Deputy Shane Ross: Information on Shane Ross Zoom on Shane Ross I do not disagree with much of what the Deputy said. Some of it is a matter of language and rhetoric.

  The passengers and those who have a social need for a transport system need to be protected and preserved. I do not believe that is inconsistent in any way with competitive tendering.

  Competitive tendering is responding to a need for more passengers having a hunger for more routes and it is not true to suggest that in some way the incumbents, the State bodies, are not being protected. The Deputy does not like figures but let me give her some.

Acting Chairman (Deputy Eugene Murphy): Information on Eugene Murphy Zoom on Eugene Murphy Very quickly.

Deputy Shane Ross: Information on Shane Ross Zoom on Shane Ross The PSO subvention increased in 2016, 2017 and again this year. Over three years, PSO subvention will have increased by 36% in total. That is a projection and it is correct. In 2018, €285 million of Exchequer funds was allocated to support the delivery of these socially necessary but financially unviable services throughout the country.

Transport Policy

 11. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan Information on Thomas P. Broughan Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Information on Shane Ross Zoom on Shane Ross the steps he will take in 2019 to increase the uptake of climate friendly travel, including cycling and public transport; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51958/18]

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan I heard the Minister's earlier reply on the climate change performance index. Of course, Ireland performed badly. We were 48th out of 56 countries. A third of our emissions are from transport.


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