To ask the Minister for Transport the position in regard to his proposals for the restructuring of the CIE group of companies, in particular his proposal for the franchising out of Dublin Bus routes; if this proposal includes the franchising of the buses also; the position in regard to his Department's discussions with the CIE group of unions; if he remains committed to the principle expressed in Sustaining Progress that public enterprise should be managed in a spirit of social partnership; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
- Róisín Shortall.
For PRIORITY answer on Wednesday, 28th January, 2004.
Ref No: 2424/04
Answered by the Minister for Transport
Séamus Brennan TD
I met with General Secretary of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions and the CIE Trade Unions on Monday 26 January 2004 on the reform of public transport. There was a frank exchange of views in talks lasting over two hours. Both I and the trade unions agreed to reflect on the views expressed at the meeting and consider if there was a basis for resumed discussions on public transport reform.
The objective of regulated market opening in bus transport was accepted in principle by the Public Transport Partnership Forum which includes the trade unions and other social partners. I believe that this objective can be achieved in the context of market expansion and negotiations without undermining terms and conditions of employment of existing employees. In this context I expect Dublin Bus to play a very significant role in meeting the future transport needs of Dublin. As I have stated on a number of occasions before this House and in my meeting with the trade unions, I am firmly of the view, supported by a number of professional studies and experience in other countries, that franchising is the most effective means of achieving genuine market opening to new entrants. However, I remain open to additional suggestions provided they are directed at achieving the same objective. Likewise I am open to reasonable proposals relating to the pace of the introduction of competition so long as this objective is achieved in an acceptable timeframe.
I would hope that the understanding of each others firmly held positions which characterised my recent meeting with the unions can provide a productive basis for resumed intensive dialogue on public transport reform.
It remains my intention to proceed with legislation on public transport reform in 2004.