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Bus Services

Dáil Éireann Debate, Thursday - 4 November 2021

Thursday, 4 November 2021

Questions (230)

Mairéad Farrell

Question:

230. Deputy Mairéad Farrell asked the Minister for Transport if he has given consideration to restoring the Galway Dublin X20 bus route; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53834/21]

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Written answers (Question to Transport)

As Minister for Transport, I am responsible for policy and overall funding in relation to public transport. However, I am not involved in day-to-day operational matters.

While most public transport in Ireland comprises the bus and rail services funded through the National Transport Authority's (NTA) public service obligation (PSO) programme, there is part of the national public transport system that comprises non-subvented bus services, which are run on a commercial basis by bus and coach businesses of varying sizes throughout the country. Bus Éireann operates a substantial PSO business under contract with the NTA, providing subvented bus services outside Dublin, and in regional and rural locations throughout the country. Bus Éireann also has a separate, commercially-run business, "Expressway", which operates a number of inter-regional bus routes in competition with other, private, commercial operators in the licensed bus market.

The Covid-19 health emergency has had a profound impact on the public transport sector due to the fall in passenger numbers and associated drop in fare revenues. In this regard, the Government agreed substantial increases to the PSO budget to ensure the continuation of PSO services throughout 2020 and 2021. In addition, the Government has recognised the impact of the pandemic on the licensed bus sector - which normally operates on a commercial basis without public subvention but which, during the Covid crisis, was in a situation where its operations were no longer commercially viable, owing to the impact of Covid-19 on passenger numbers and the associated drop in fare revenue.

Therefore, in June 2020 the Government decided to introduce new, temporary financial supports for certain licensed services provided by commercial bus operators to ensure the continued operation of these essential services. Among the commercially-operated routes that have qualified for support under the temporary scheme are most, but not all, of Bus Éireann's "Expressway" services. Notwithstanding these supports, though, the Covid situation has still had a profound impact on the company's financial situation, that the Board of the company is obliged to address. Following extensive analysis and work within the company, the decision to consolidate its Expressway network was taken by the Board of Bus Éireann in September 2020. The decision impacts four routes - the X1 Dublin/Belfast service (which ceased operations in November 2020), the X12 Dublin/Limerick service (which ceased operations on 30/01/2021), the 20/X20 Dublin/Galway service (which ceased operations on 28/07/2021) and the X8 Dublin/Cork service (which ceased operations on 04/09/2021).

In circumstances where a commercial operator ceases operating a specific route, the NTA undertakes an examination to determine whether, with the discontinuation of the commercial service, it is necessary for a replacement PSO service to be introduced to ensure no loss of connectivity to the travelling public. This process includes an assessment of the level of demand for public transport services in the affected area, an evaluation of whether existing PSO services can be reconfigured to meet any shortfall, or whether it is necessary to competitively tender for the provision of services. In light of the decision by Bus Éireann to cease operating the X20 route, the NTA completed a detailed assessment of the X20 corridor and have determined that despite Expressway’s withdrawal, sufficient connectivity is provided by the remaining operators and the public service obligation is adequately met by other rail and bus services, thereby negating the need for any further intervention on the route.

Question No. 231 answered with Question No. 170.

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