I propose to take Questions Nos. 72 and 80 together.
As the Deputy is aware, it is a statutory function of the National Transport Authority, under the Dublin Transport Authority Act 2008 and EU Regulation 1370/2007, to award PSO contracts and to determine the appropriate mix of directly awarded and competitively tendered PSO services.
The PSO programme represents a significant expenditure of taxpayers’ money and has increased substantially in recent years. I secured €287m to fund our PSO services in 2019.
International experience indicates that introducing competitive tension into our PSO bus market (i.e. a mixture of direct award and then competitively tendered contracts) should allow us to capture potential benefits as regards value for money in terms of the use of taxpayers' money in securing the provision of PSO services.
We are always looking for ways to improve our public transport services and the NTA conducting an open, competitive process as part of providing enhanced and expanded services for passengers, and then monitoring and implementing its contacts, is part of that improvement process. Passengers are at the centre of our public transport policy and competitive tendering encourages everybody to focus on their customer’s needs. It also encourages innovation and improvements to service quality for bus passengers.
All public transport services - whether they are provided by direct award contracts or through competitive tender - will continue to be regulated by the NTA so that LEAP, Free Travel Pass, Real Time Information etc. will all continue to operate on these services and fares will continue to be regulated by NTA.
The NTA's current direct award public service obligation (PSO) contracts with Bus Éireann and Dublin Bus expire at the end of November 2019. The NTA is required to follow a statutory process underpinned by both EU and national legislation before the direct award contracts may be renewed.
As part of this process, the NTA launched a public consultation process in early October 2018 in relation to the bus services contracts. This consultation informed the NTA's decision on the renewal of the contracts, including in relation to the Direct Award / Competitive Tender balance of contracts for Bus Éireann.
Regarding the direct award contracts post-2019 in relation to Bus Éireann, the NTA has announced that it will:
- directly award an equivalent service level that the company has in December 2019;
- amend that contract in 2021 to reduce it by up to 5% of services; and
- provide the removed services through a separate contract following an open competitive tender process.
It will be open to Bus Éireann to tender for these services if they so wish.
The new direct award contracts proposed by NTA will provide a guaranteed level of PSO funding to Dublin Bus and Bus Éireann up to 2024. The NTA decided that Dublin Bus should retain service levels at 2019 levels at least, and that there should be no further tendering processes during the term of the new contract which would reduce service levels by the company.
To conclude, the NTA has the statutory responsibility to award PSO contracts and to determine the appropriate mix of directly awarded and competitively tendered PSO services. Under the law, this is not an area in which I have a role.