That leave be granted to introduce a Bill entitled an Act to amend the Dublin Transport Authority Act 2008 to provide that no direct award public service contracts of public transport passenger services in excess of ten per cent of said service contracts currently entered into with a public transport operator, (and other than with Dublin Bus, Bus Éireann and Iarnród Éireann) shall take place until such time as a period of five years has elapsed from the date of commencement of said contracts and a full review of same has been carried out and to provide for related matters.
I welcome the opportunity to present the Dublin Transport Authority (Amendment) Bill 2018 to the House. The Bill is designed to prevent any additional privatisation of Dublin Bus routes pending a comprehensive review of the routes which have been privatised to date. This is a prudent measure to prevent further privatisation in advance of a full determination of the impact of privatisation on service levels and public transport more generally. Fianna Fáil recognises the crucial role public transport plays in Irish life and that it must be promoted strongly. Unfortunately, the Government has fallen well short over the last number of years with the result that there is now chronic overcrowding on all forms of public transport, including DART, Luas and Dublin Bus services. If we are serious about getting people to move from the private car, we must be in a position to offer them an efficient, reliable and affordable service.
As matters stand, there are a number of public service obligation routes in Ireland. These are routes which it is considered socially necessary to operate but which are not economically viable. One contract is drawn up for the operation of all such routes within the greater Dublin area while another is drawn up for the operation of all such routes outside Dublin. Currently, 90% of routes outside the greater Dublin area are automatically assigned to Bus Éireann with a competitive tender for the remaining 10%. Earlier this year, Go-Ahead won a proportion of these competitively tendered routes. It must be acknowledged also that Bus Éireann managed to hold onto some of the competitively tendered routes in this process. Similarly, 90% of these routes in Dublin are assigned to Dublin Bus with a further 10% going to tender. Go-Ahead won this 10% tender and commenced to operate a number of routes a few short weeks ago. However, the National Transport Authority, or NTA, has the power to change this unilaterally whenever a contract falls to be renewed. That stands at every five years currently.
The original decision to put 10% of routes out to public tender was taken to provide a comparative basis on which to ensure that we were getting value for money for the taxpayer and to determine whether the public transport was effective and efficient. Fianna Fáil does not believe the NTA should have unchecked powers to privatise any further bus routes. As such, the Bill seeks to provide that no further privatisation should occur until a minimum of five years has elapsed since the original contracts were awarded. At that point, a full review of these contracts should be presented to the Dáil, which should then decide whether further routes should be contracted out.
This will ensure we have a full and open analysis of the impacts of the privatisation of the six existing routes to ensure we can have confidence in the level of service offered on our public transport. We would not buy a car without checking its paperwork or NCT records, so why should we consider privatising one of our most important systems without ensuring we have checks on the existing routes that have been put out to tender?