To ask the Minister for Transport the action he intends to take to avert the threatened industrial action by members of the NBRU following his recent decision to issue two new licences for private bus services in Dublin; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
- Róisín Shortall.
For SUBSTITUTE PRIORITY answer on
Wednesday, 7th July, 2004.
Ref No: 20788/04 Proof: 12
Answered by the Minister for Transport (Séamus Brennan)
I set out my policy proposals for public transport reform in statements to the Public Transport Partnership Forum in November 2002 and the Oireachtas Committee on Transport in June 2003.
My objectives in proposing reform of the 70 year old legislation which regulates the public transport sector are:
To use competition in the provision of bus services to stimulate better performance, improved efficiency and cost effectiveness;
To ensure that the taxpayer and the public transport user get better value for money; and
To show clearly how funding for public transport is being spent to deliver service, and to establish a clear link between payments and performance.
The principal elements of my proposals are:
The establishment of an independent procurement and regulatory authority for transport, on a national basis; and
The introduction of controlled competition into the bus market in the Dublin area in the form of franchising as the primary means of procuring bus services.
I am firmly of the view that creating genuine
opportunities for other bus companies to enter the bus market in Dublin is in the best interests of both the taxpayer and the customers of public transport. I am also firmly of the view that these opportunities can be created without adversely impacting on the pay and conditions of existing Dublin Bus employees.
Officials of my Department have held a number of meetings with the CIE unions since February this year. On 12 May my Department put detailed proposals on reform of the bus market in Dublin to the CIE unions. On 18 May the CIE unions presented a substantive response paper through the independent chair. This paper included proposals which would have significant implications for the industrial relations structure of the bus industry, and which in turn would have potentially significant ramifications for the wider economy and the general approach to industrial relations in this country. When the discussions resumed on 8 June, my officials gave an initial response to the union paper but advised the unions that, given the implications of these proposals, there was a need for detailed consultations with other Departments and for the issue to be discussed at Cabinet. Unfortunately, despite this need to consider the proposals more fully, the NBRU decided to ballot on industrial action.
I regret the recent announcement by the NBRU that it plans to go ahead with industrial action which will seriously inconvenience the traveling public, have negative impacts on business and tourism and damage the reputation of public transport as a viable alternative to private car commuting.
There is no need for this industrial action. The talks, under the skilled chairmanship of Kevin Foley, have been making progress. There has been real engagement in identifying and solving the core issues.
I remain personally committed to the current talks process.
As regards the bus licensing issue, my Department issued two licences in early June to enable the provision of morning and evening services for workers in the Citywest Business Park. In processing the licence applications, my Department followed its normal procedure which included an assessment of the 'public interest' as narrowly defined by the Road Transport Act 1932. During the course of its assessment my Department was advised by Citywest that Dublin Bus had first been requested to provide services into the business campus, but the Company did not take up the request. The background to this licensing decision has been fully explained to the trade unions. I have repeatedly made it clear that the Road Transport Act 1932 no longer provides a satisfactory basis for regulating the bus market and that I plan to replace it as part of my regulatory reform programme. The sooner we find a basis in the talks process for moving forward in the reform programme, the sooner the 1932 Act will be replaced.