Deputy Munster can be assured that I am fully engaged with establishing an appropriate response to the challenges and needs of the transport sector. The Deputy has identified a range of issues on the industrial relations front and then implied that these issues stem from inadequate funding of public transport.
I have just answered separately a priority parliamentary question tabled by Deputy Troy about Bus Éireann's Expressway services, which are operated in the commercial, competitive bus market and which, by their very nature, do not receive State funding. I cannot accept that the Dublin Bus and Luas disputes, which have since been resolved, somehow reflect adversely on my approach to public transport funding or policy. I can see the connection the Deputy is making, but they were pretty early in my tenure. To suggest that some of those things were not a result of longstanding problems that existed in these companies is probably somewhat misleading.
In 2017, PSO funding for public transport service contracts will increase by 11%. I am also providing funding for the completion of the Luas cross city project next year. In addition, I will be providing funding for more than 180 new buses comprising 110 buses for the Dublin region and more than 70 buses and coaches for the Bus Éireann fleet. Furthermore, I have secured up to €160 million for the maintenance and renewal of the rail network and the increased PSO finding will allow the National Transport Authority, NTA, to allocate vital funding for maintenance of railway rolling stock.
In the case of the rail review, the challenges that the railway faces long precede my appointment as Minister. As the Deputy will be aware, the NTA is currently running a public consultation on rail in Ireland. It was launched with the publication of the Rail Review 2016 report, which review the NTA undertook in conjunction with Iarnród Éireann, together with an NTA consultation document entitled The Role of Rail in Ireland and Funding its Delivery. Both documents are available on the NTA's website.
Additional information not given on the floor of the House
The NTA's public consultation will run until 18 January. Through the consultation process, the public and interested parties have an opportunity to contribute to the debate on the future of rail. The purpose of the public consultation is to open up a public discussion on the role of rail and its funding and to provide factual material to inform that discussion. The NTA will then prepare a report about the consultation process which I intend to bring to Government.
In summary, therefore, I am taking all reasonable steps to focus available funding on the improvement of public transport and I am strongly supportive of the rail review process currently under way. I am determined to make further progress on policies that will help commuters and passengers.