I thank Deputy Munster for her question. The current direct award public service obligation contracts with Bus Éireann, Dublin Bus and Iarnród Éireann expire at the end of November 2019. It is a statutory function of the National Transport Authority, under the Dublin Transport Authority Act 2008 and Regulation (EC) No. 1370/2007, to award PSO contracts and to determine the appropriate mix of directly-awarded and competitively tendered PSO services. It is incorrect to describe competitive tendering as privatisation as nothing is being sold, services are not being deregulated and control remains with the NTA.
The NTA is required to follow a statutory process underpinned by EU and national legislation before the direct award contracts may be renewed. As part of this process, the NTA launched a public consultation process in early October for the bus services contracts. This will inform its forthcoming decision on the renewal of the contracts, including the decision relating to the direct award and competitive tender balance of contracts. Dublin Bus, Bus Éireann, users of bus services and other stakeholders were invited to make submissions on the NTA proposals. The closing date for submissions was 30 October 2018.
As the Deputy is aware, the NTA is proposing to directly award to Dublin Bus an equivalent service level that the company will have at December 2019. The NTA is proposing to directly award to Bus Éireann an equivalent service level that the company has in December 2019. Furthermore, the NTA is proposing to amend that contract in 2021, reduce it by up to 10% of services and provide the removed services through a separate contract following an open competitive tender process. Should the NTA decide to competitively tender 10% of Bus Éireann services, it will be open to Bus Éireann to tender for these services if the company so wishes. The Deputy will recall that Bus Éireann was successful in the recent competitive tender competition run by the NTA for the operation of five city bus routes in Waterford city.
The new direct award contracts proposed by NTA will provide a guaranteed level of PSO funding to Dublin Bus and Bus Éireann up to 2024. The PSO programme represents significant expenditure of taxpayers' money and has increased by some 35% in the past three years. This year €285 million in funding has been allocated toward funding our PSO services.
Additional information not given on the floor of the House
I remind the Deputy that all public transport services, whether provided by direct award contracts or through competitive tender, will continue to be regulated by the NTA so that Leap services, free travel pass, real time information, etc., will all continue to operate on these services and fares will continue to be regulated by the NTA.
The NTA has statutory responsibility to award PSO contracts and to determine the appropriate mix of directly awarded and competitively tendered PSO services. Under law, this is not an area in which the Minister has a role. Following the conclusion of the NTA's public consultation process, I understand the board of the authority will take its decision on this issue later this month.