Written Answers. - Public Transport.

Gay Mitchell

Question:

141 Mr. G. Mitchell asked the Minister for Transport his proposals for the deregulation of the Dublin bus market; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2648/03]

On 7 November last I made a statement to the public transport partnership forum in which I outlined, in detail, my proposals for reform of the public transport market in the greater Dublin area. The main elements of my proposals for regulation of bus services in the greater Dublin area are as follows: as Minister for Transport, I will continue to set overall regulatory policy and approve the broad public transport investment strategy for the greater Dublin area; within that regulatory and investment framework, I will establish an independent body to procure and regulate public transport services and allocate current and capital funding for specific purposes from an overall allocation provided by the Exchequer; I do not intend to deregulate the bus market in the greater Dublin area. Instead I propose to introduce controlled competition in the form of franchising. This will begin with new services and will be extended on a phased basis to the existing service network in the greater Dublin area. I would like to see the first phase of franchising commence at the beginning of 2004, with up to 25% of the mar ket being franchised out in that year, and with annual progress thereafter; long distance commuter services serving the greater Dublin area will also be procured and regulated by the independent regulatory body; the regulatory body will be given responsibility for regulating public transport fares and setting and enforcing quality standards for public transport services.

These proposals took particular account of the views expressed by the public transport partnership forum. In my statement to the forum, I made it clear that it was my intention to deal with the reform programme on a basis of partnership and consultation. Since then, I have had discussions with representatives of the CIE unions and also with the CIE board and the boards of the subsidiary companies and I intend to progress the implementation of the reform programme in this consultative manner. Following a lengthy meeting I had with the trade unions yesterday, it was agreed that bilateral discussions would continue.