The letter below appeared in today’s (20th February 2017) Irish Examiner:
Victoria White’s piece in your newspaper (Thursday, 16 February 2017) was a timely addition to the debate on bus services.
There seems however to be a fundamental misunderstanding of the NTA’s role and remit as set out in enabling legislation.
The Authority contracts Bus Éireann to deliver Public Service Obligation bus services for which the company is wholly remunerated. As services increase over the coming years, that subsidy is likely to increase to previous levels.
Bus Eireann Expressway on the other hand, is a wholly commercial entity and its activities are not subvented by the State through the Authority. The Authority does not manage Expressway either strategically or on a day-to-day basis.
As we have clarified previously, the Authority has granted a limited number of licences on the Cork, Limerick and Waterford corridors to private operators offering non-stop or limited stop services between Dublin and each city, which met a strong customer demand.
It’s worth pointing out that the Authority has issued no additional licences on the Galway corridor which already had express and limited stop services in place. Furthermore, Bus Éireann’s commercial Expressway division could equally have applied at any stage for licences to operate via the motorway system.
It is notable that since 2013 there has been significant growth in passenger journeys on the intercity bus services. In the same time period, rail passenger numbers on the Limerick and Waterford corridors remained steady, while passenger numbers on the Cork and Galway corridors actually grew by 7% and by 12 % respectively.
This is a clear indication that the size of that market has grown considerably and that the majority of passengers are new to public transport or are existing passengers making more interurban journeys.
The Authority has also been effective in reorganising and improving public transport in urban markets since 2012, and evidence of this is provided by the fact that between 2012 and 2016 passenger numbers on Bus Éireann PSO city services in Cork grew by 32.2% and in Galway by 20%.
Both these outcomes provide clear evidence of effective regulation of the interurban and urban markets and that the Authority is discharging its core remit of reducing car dependency and increasing the use of public transport in various markets across the State.
Leap ticketing systems, Journey planning and information in real time at stops and via phone apps have all been developed by the Authority to make public transport even easier and more convenient to use.
The Authority is well aware that further work remains to be done, and will continue to innovate to improve public transport services for the people of Ireland.
Chief Executive Officer
National Transport Authority