Public Transport.

I thank the Cathaoirlaech for the opportunity to raise this issue, which is of particular concern in my own constituency, given the impact on commuters following the announcement by the Circle Line company that it will close. Will the Minister of State outline the implications of this decision for the area? Commuters in Lucan continually find themselves waiting lengthy periods at bus stops for business or trying to board buses that are full to capacity. The daily commute is very often difficult, tiresome, unsatisfactory and variable. Bus services need to be improved and the number of buses needs to be increased.

Transport legislation is creating a number of difficulties in the provision of additional bus routes. People were upset about the closure of the Circle Line company bus route as it was considered to be a valuable service and it generated employment. The routes were very helpful to commuters in the area. What is happening regarding bus services in the area? Dublin Bus needs, for example, to provide new services and to fill bus corridors, particularly in Clondalkin, which have been empty for a number of months.

I refer to the issue of competition in the market. The closure of the Circle Line company means commuters will not benefit from competition. What is the Government's response to the withdrawal of the company from this route? What does it intend to do to encourage and foster competition in the bus market? Does it agree Dublin Bus should provide new routes rather than chase competitors out of the market, as happened in this instance? When does it intend to license new buses that would cover the routes in the Lucan area? Clearly people will use the service if it is available in a reliable way. However, in recent weeks, following this company's closure, uncertainty has surrounded routes in the area and a service has been lost that was helpful to people. The question of whether the routes will be replaced by Dublin Bus is open.

On 19 June 2008, my Department was advised by the Circle Line company that it was going into voluntary liquidation and that bus services it was providing to and from Celbridge and Lucan, which were the subject of licences issued under the Road Transport Act 1932, would cease to operate from Friday, 27 June 2008. I very much regret the loss of employment and the loss of the significant level of services to which the licences related. This incident highlights what has been stated since the Minister for Transport took up office, which is the bus licensing regime needsto be overhauled. This underlines why we brought the Dublin Transport Authority Bill, currently in its final Stages, to the Houses of the Oireachtas. This was passed by the Seanad recently.

The next stage in this reform process is legislation to amend the Road Transport Act 1932 which provides the statutory basis for regulating the provision of public bus services by private bus operators. I envisage that the new licensing regime will apply in respect of all commercial bus services, including those provided by Dublin Bus and Bus Éireann. The new Bill will also encompass provisions relating to the subvented bus market outside the greater Dublin area that are consistent with the new EU public service obligation regulation. I understand from Dublin Bus that there are approximately 217 services daily between the Lucan area and the city centre, of which 39 also serve the Celbridge area. I am also informed that there are approximately 190 outbound services from the city centre serving the Lucan area throughout the day.

It is open to Dublin Bus or any other operator to submit proposals to my Department in respect of new bus services from the areas in question. Last Friday, Dublin Bus made an application seeking authorisation to provide a small number of morning services from Celbridge and Lucan. Subsequently the application was revised by the company and resubmitted to the Department yesterday. The application is being given urgent consideration by the Department. We must wait and see what happens. Previously, there was a complaint that there were too many buses on the route. However, if extra buses are required, it is the intention to deal with the application quickly.

I have two questions for the Minister of State. He said the legislation must be overhauled. I cannot understand why that was not done in the recent Dublin Transport Authority Bill. When will the legislation be brought before the House? The Minister also said a new application has been made by Dublin Bus. However, Dublin Bus finds it difficult to get a quick response from the Department. What is the timetable for responding to the new application made yesterday to provide more services in the area?

The previous legislation dealt with the Dublin transport authority. Many Governments in the past have spoken about the need to reform the 1932 Act. It could have been dealt with in the Dublin Transport Authority Bill but it was considered best to deal with the DTA first and then deal with the fundamental issue. The energies of the Department have been focused on the Dublin Transport Authority Bill, which is due to go through Report Stage in the Dáil this week. It is then the intention to draft an all-embracing reform of the 1932 Act, something that has been talked about by many Ministers over the years. The Minister, Deputy Noel Dempsey, considers it interlinked with the DTA although the reform of the 1932 Act will cover the entire country. That will be the focus of attention when the Dublin Transport Authority Bill is passed, as the same staff will have to deal with it.

The other issue mentioned by the Senator is the delay in responding to applications. Both Dublin Bus and the private operators complain about slowness in the Department but much of that slowness is because there is already another operator on the route. Regardless of whether it is an application from a private operator or Dublin Bus, if somebody else is providing a service on that route there is a problem. If there is nobody else on the route, matters should move more quickly. In the past Dublin Bus has complained bitterly in some cases, such as in the case of the port tunnel, while the private operators have complained in other cases. It is due to the fact that somebody else is providing services on a significant portion of the route. In this case, however, if there is no other private operator providing a service, the process should be faster.