I propose to take Questions Nos. 73, 82, 97, 104 and 138 together.
The Government has made a number of significant decisions in recent times that will provide a solid basis for expanded and improved bus services throughout the country over the coming years. As announced in my statement of 28 September 2006, the Government has decided that the regulation of the bus market and future decisions on the allocation of all public subsidies for bus services in the Greater Dublin Area will be taken by the new Dublin Transport Authority. Legislation to establish the Authority is now at an advanced stage of preparation and a consultative process in line with the commitment under "Towards 2016" is underway.
The DTA will have responsibility for contracting with all operators in the Dublin market. It will also be responsible for monitoring the quality and cost of service by all operators and ensuring value for money on all routes.
Under the Government's transport investment framework– Transport 21 — it is anticipated that there will be a requirement in the GDA for an expansion of the number of buses providing scheduled services. This will require at least 200 extra buses over the next two years. The Government has decided to meet this initial requirement by providing up to €30m necessary funding to enable Dublin Bus to buy 100 additional buses. I understand from Dublin Bus that these buses are currently being delivered and they should all be in place by early next year. Their deployment is a matter for the company.
A further 100 buses are to be procured from the private sector by the Dublin Transport Authority to provide services on new routes. This is to be done by way of competitive tendering. This forms part of an initiative to facilitate the entry of private operators, by awarding franchises to operate routes accounting for 15% of the expanded Dublin bus market (approx 200 buses) exclusively to such operators by way of competitive tendering. The question of providing funding for these services does not arise at this juncture nor will the cost to the Exchequer be evident until the tendering process is completed by the DTA.
It is envisaged that the identification of routes for these buses and the award of franchises will be a matter for the DTA. Following this, all new routes will be subject to a competitive tendering process open to all operators. The precise arrangements will be approved by Government on the basis of proposals from the DTA.
New legislation is also being prepared to replace the existing bus licensing regime under the Road Transport Act 1932 with a modern regulatory and licensing regime in line with commitments in the Programme for Government. This new legislation will address a range of issues including improved enforcement arrangements and the introduction of a single licensing code for all bus operators. The new legislation will be designed in a manner consistent with EU law on public service obligations and State aids and in such a way as to create new opportunities for private operator involvement in the bus market.
In advance of the legislation replacing the 1932 Act, my Department will continue to process any applications or notifications for new or amended bus services received from both private and public bus operators under the existing regulatory regime.