The Deputy is aware that the taxpayer provides our public transport system with funding of almost a quarter of a billion euro each year; this year the exact figure is €236.6m. Of course that figure solely relates to the provision of public transport services and does not include the considerable capital funding provided in terms of public transport infrastructure. I am obliged, and I believe that everyone in this House is similarly obliged, to ensure that the taxpayer is getting the best possible value for this significant expenditure of taxpayers' money.
What the Deputy refers to as "a significant portion of Dublin Bus routes" is actually just 10% of Dublin Bus' current PSO routes. The NTA has the statutory power to assess the appropriate mix of directly awarded and competitively tendered PSO bus services and in line with those statutory powers it has initiated this process to determine the operators of these particular services. Experience gained across the European Union suggests that savings to the taxpayer can arise through using competitive tendering as the award mechanism.
In terms of pay and conditions, the NTA requires any transport operator who operates public transport services to act within the law, including relevant employment legislation. Consistent with this approach, the forthcoming tendering process conducted by the NTA will require any transport operator who is awarded a contract to comply with relevant employment legislation.
The NTA has completed the pre-qualification phase of the competition and expects to issue formal invitations to tender to qualified parties very shortly.
The process underway will allow us to capture potential benefits as regards value for money and quality and I look forward to the NTA's announcement as regards this competition, and the other two bus related competitions, later this year.