Fianna Fáil TD Eugene Murphy has called on the Minister for Transport to ensure that the Expressway bus service that is vital for rural Ireland is saved.
“Bus Éireann’s financial position has worsened considerably since Minister Ross took office. However it seems that the Minister is oblivious to this problem and is unaware that the company is on the verge of shutting down many of its key routes serving large swathes of the country,” said Deputy Murphy.
“Bus Éireann reported losses of up to €5.6 million for 2015, an estimated €6m in 2016 and now it is anticipated that losses will exceed €7m for 2017. This is deeply worrying considering the improving economy and demonstrates that there is a fundamental problem at the heart of Bus Éireann’s operations.
“The semi-state company faults some Expressway services for the significant mounting losses. As a result, the company is planning to make sweeping changes to routes serving vast swathes of the country, which it will publish in an upcoming report by Grant Thornton auditors.
“If the Expressway services to Dublin or other cities is cut this will further the economic gap between rural and urban Ireland. This is further evidence of the neglect of rural Ireland by Fine Gael and their Independent colleagues. Rural isolation is becoming one of the most worrying prospects for my constituents and if we lose vital bus route services such as the Expressway service from Ballina to Dublin which is vital for the movement of people from the West of Ireland to Dublin, it will leave our students, tourists, day shoppers and many more commuters without any form of transport that will get them to the small villages and towns along the way for whom this service is vital.”
“2.4 billion is set aside in the capital spending plan 2016-2022 to build a Metro rail link from Dublin city centre to Dublin Airport however it has been suggested that a Dart link would be built at a fraction of the cost, estimated at just 200 million and would do the same job of connecting rail links to the airport. I suggest looking carefully at this saving and using this funding to ensuring that the whole of the country has a decent cost effective bus service “In response to questioning from Fianna Fáil on this issue, the Minister for Transport has continually shirked his responsibility to maintain an adequate level of public transportation for rural towns. I would like to see a meaningful discussion between the agencies to ensure that Expressway service is not cut back so that the Bus Éireann service for Dublin can carry on its loss making ways.
“The Minister needs to act now to ensure services are maintained or put a plan in place for private operators to apply for bus route licenses. The private sector may well be able to step into the breach and offer a competitive service that ensures that routes are covered.”
“Without doubt the Route Licensing system needs to be reviewed. In particular, the NTA needs to be given greater licensing powers to approve or reject route amendments by Bus Éireann and private operators.
“Fianna Fáil will be bringing forward legislation to make these changes. It is important that the future of Bus Éireann is secured, but the semi-state company must not abandon its obligation to serve communities right across the country. As a semi state company it must not be allowed cherry pick the best bits of the company ie the Dublin routes and leave the rest of the country to fend for itself.”