As Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, I have responsibility for policy and overall funding in respect of public transport. The NTA has statutory responsibility for securing the provision of public passenger transport services nationally. The NTA also has national responsibility for integrated local and rural transport including management of the rural transport programme, which now operates under the Local Link brand. The school transport scheme comes under the remit of my colleague, the Minister for Education and Skills, and is managed by Bus Éireann on her behalf.
My Department provides aggregate funding for Local Link services to the NTA, which, in turn, allocates the funding to the individual transport co-ordination units, TCUs, nationwide, also known as Local Link offices. The TCUs manage the day-to-day requests for and delivery of public transport services. TFI Local Link Louth, Meath, Fingal, that is, Flexibus, operates and delivers rural public transport services on behalf of the NTA in counties Louth and Meath and the Fingal area in north County Dublin.
The NTA has advised that Covid-19-related social distancing requirements have increased the costs on the existing service provided by Flexibus, about which the Deputy has inquired. As such, the company was not in a position to continue providing the service as previously without additional support or grant aid.
Under the Public Transport Regulation Act 2009, the definition of a "public bus passenger service" excludes the NTA from licensing or providing services for carrying children to or from school. Consequently, the NTA does not manage the delivery of dedicated school transport services.
Local Link services are for mainstream public transport services open to all. Dedicated school transport services continue to be funded by the Department of Education and Skills and operated by Bus Éireann, largely via a network of subcontractors. As such, the NTA has advised that it is not in a position to allocate resources to Flexibus for a school-specific service such as the one referred to by the Deputy.