I met the general secretary of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions and the CIE trade unions on Monday, 26 January 2004 on the reform of public transport. There was a frank exchange of views in talks which lasted more than two hours. The trade unions and I agreed to reflect on the views expressed at the meeting and consider if there was a basis for resumed discussions on public transport reform.
The objective of regulated market opening in bus transport was accepted in principle by the public transport partnership forum, which included the trade unions and other social partners. This objective can be achieved in the context of market expansions and negotiations, without undermining the terms and conditions of employment of existing employees. In this context, I expect Dublin Bus to play a significant role in meeting the future transport needs of Dublin.
As stated on a number of previous occasions in the House and in meetings with the trade unions, I am firmly of the view, which is supported by a number of professional studies and experience in other countries, that franchising is the most effective way of achieving genuine market opening to new entrants. However, I remain open to additional suggestions provided they are directed at achieving the same objective. Likewise, I am open to reasonable proposals relating to the pace of the introduction of competition as long as this objective is achieved in an acceptable timeframe.
I hope that the understanding of each other's firmly held positions, which characterised my recent meetings with the unions, can provide a productive basis for resumed intensive dialogue on public transport reform. It remains my intention to proceed with legislation on public transport reform in 2004.