I commissioned the Report that I'm publishing here today in mid 2008. I commissioned it to assist me in providing reassurance to Government and the taxpayer that Dublin Bus and Bus Eirean are operating efficiently and effectively.
I believe that bus services will remain at the heart of our public transport system for the foreseeable future and will entail a substantial Exchequer commitment.
Since I commissioned the Report, the financial position of both companies has deteriorated very significantly due to declining passenger revenue and rising costs.
Despite an increase in the Exchequer subvention to CIE in 2009 - which now stands at a record €313m - and a fares increase of 10%, the CIE Group is still facing a projected operating loss in 2009 of up to €100m.
In response, the CIE companies are now implementing a range of measures to reduce costs by bringing the level of services more into line with demand. The financial stability of the Group is an imperative.
Report-part of a broader plan
This report should be put in the context of my overall approach to the strengthening of bus services and bus market reform. This context sees
a move to service contracts for the provision of funding on government subsidized routes;
the reform of the 1932 Act in relation to bus route licensing;
a continuing high level of funding for government subsidized services;
ongoing investment in bus priority and traffic management measures to improve bus flow.
The post of Chief Executive of the Dublin Transport Authority was advertised last Friday and I hope to have the post filled before mid year.
An early task of the DTA will be to conclude Public Service Contracts with the CIE companies for government subsidized transport services before the end of this year.
The task of preparing these contracts is already underway. These will be legally binding and will set out in detail for the first time a range of strict requirements to be met by the CIE companies in relation to service delivery.
This Deloitte Report is therefore timely as its contents will heavily influence the new DTA contracts as regards the delivery of bus services.
This report also identifies the challenges facing both companies in developing and implementing their cost recovery plans.
The fundamental challenge we now face is to provide services that are better aligned with the needs of the public. We must make bus services more attractive to customers in order to grow passenger numbers.
The Report by the Deloitte led consortium reaches a number of key conclusions. In relation to the effectiveness of both bus networks, it finds that the Dublin Bus network has not been significantly realigned for a number of years.
As a result it has become overly complex with a significant amount of service duplication. It concludes that there is an opportunity, through a complete network redesign, to create a simplified network offering improved services with improved cost efficiency.
The consultants undertook a review of one corridor and identified potential operational savings of over €2m of total corridor costs. A review of other corridors on the same basis as applied to the case study would be likely to deliver significant efficiency gains.
In relation to the Bus Éireann network, the report concludes that the network service is efficient and identified no potential scope to achieve major cost savings without reducing services. I have, therefore, asked the CIE Chairman to review the subvention allocated to Bus Eireann in the context of the reports overall findings as regards potential for savings in Dublin Bus.
In relation to Dublin Bus, the report concludes that the current fleet size is adequate to service current demand.
There is scope for the more efficient deployment of the fleet. This conclusion reflects the growth in the capacity of the fleet in recent yearsover the period since 2000 the capacity of the fleet seated and standing- has grown by more than 35%.
In relation to Dublin Bus this report identifies scope for adjusting the scheduling of buses and drivers in the interests of improved customer service. This can be achieved through timetable changes and changes to the practice of "out of service" running and in the operation of routes to garages without apparent customer demand.
The Report also recommends a progressive re-focusing of the fare structures to ensure a greater use of pre paid tickets.
The headline recommendations of this Deloitte report are that bus services in Dublin can be improved. How can this be done? Through the
redesign of the network to provide a similar or better level of service at a lower cost
by simplifying the network, eliminating duplication of services, stop bunching of buses, providing additional direct routes into and out of the city and to key employment centres, improving scheduling effectiveness and improving bus priority.
The report provides a good framework for a fundamental review and re-shaping of the network of services in the Dublin area.
This task must be undertaken urgently.
Any actions taken by Dublin Bus to deal with present difficulties should be informed by this report and its vision of a totally re-shaped network.
On this basis I have asked both the Chairman of CIE and of Dublin Bus to prepare over the coming weeks for my approval a programme for the implementation of these recommendations. I have asked that a similar programme be prepared by Bus Éireann.
Despite the current difficulties facing the companies it is important that any retrenchment necessary is strategic and not indiscriminate. This report will assist both companies to this end. Its recommendations will help ensure that services better meet the needs of CIE customers and play a full part in ensuring that more people use public transport.
Finally, it is my intention to publish in the coming months a Public Transport Regulation Bill to reform the regulatory regime governing the licensing of both public and private bus services.