Unions Rail Against Any Bid To Privatise Bus Routes

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A consultation report for Bus Éireann proposes further services be put out to tender. The National Transport Authority recommends outsourcing 10% of services, largely in the Dublin commuter belt area in 2021.

The NTA has also recommended keeping Dublin Bus services at their 2019 level for the following five years. However, the Authority says it will review routes and services once the final Bus Connects network is agreed.

The NTA says it will also need to consider if any new Bus Connect routes will be added to Dublin Bus services or tendered.

NTA is now undertaking a statutory public consultation and is inviting written submissions or observations before the closing date of 5 pm, Tuesday 30th October.

Should any tendering take place, Dublin Bus will be free to enter the process as a bidder.

NTA is proposing (i) to enter into another direct award contract with Bus Éireann in 2019 and (ii) to amend that contract in 2021 to reduce the services within that contract by up to 10% and (iii) provide the removed services through a separate contract following an open tender process.

The routes proposed to be tendered as outlined in the consultation report are largely in the Dublin commuter belt area.

It is proposed to enter into a direct award contract with Bus Éireann for a further five-year period from 1st December 2019 up to the end of November 2024, with the exception of some routes serving the Dublin commuter area.

These routes will be included in a December 2019 direct award contract, but with the proviso that the Authority would remove them from the direct award contract and put them out to a competitive tender.

Bus Éireann will be free to enter that process as a bidder.

Anne Graham, CEO of the NTA, said:

“Private bus operators will be able to compete for some routes while the public will always have a good quality and reliable public service obligation (PSO) service, provided by a combination of incumbent operators and operators that are new to the market. We believe that competition improves services which can only be good for the customer.”

The reaction by unions has been one of clear anger. SIPTU representatives have condemned the proposal by the National Transport Authority (NTA) to offer 10% of Bus Eireann services to private operators from 2021.

SIPTU Organiser, John Murphy, said the decision was ideologically driven and would result in further privatisation of public bus services:

“We are totally opposed to the proposals to remove 10% of the Bus Eireann services from the state operator in 2021 with the intention to open tender such services at that point. This is a flawed ideologically driven agenda which will result in the further privatisation of our public bus services.”

He said that union members supported the decision to award public service contracts to Dublin Bus and Bus Eireann from next year but did not agree with the arguments put forward the tendering of Dublin commuter routes in 2021.

“Public transport services should not be privatised on the basis of spurious competitiveness arguments. Bus users are entitled to decent, reliable services not those provided as part of a race to the bottom in standards and in conditions of work.”

The National Bus and Rail Union (NBRU) has threatened industrial action. It’s General Secretary Dermot O’Leary said:

“The announcement by the NTA this morning of its Intention to tender out 10% of Bus Eireann Routes and the privatisation of State jobs is something that will be vigorously opposed by the NBRU.  The determination of the NTA, supported by the Thatcherite ideology of the Fine Gael Government, to aggressively attack Semi-state jobs cannot be allowed to go unchallenged by those from across the political spectrum that profess to oppose the privatisation of State services. Handing over millions of taxpayers money to private corporations whilst at the same time paying workers a pittance is nothing less than a State supported race to the bottom.”