The Joint Oireachtas Committee on Transport and Communications has said that cuts in State funding is "hindering" the provision of public transport for rural areas and other such services.
Most recently, the West Cavan section of the Dublin-Donegal Route 30 was cut by Bus Éireann who said that section of the journey, which ran three-times daily was "no longer commercially viable". But for an 11th-hour U-turn, which saw an extension of the subsidised Monaghan to Cavan route last week to incorporate the west of Cavan, a contract that his now awaiting approval from the National Transport Authority, that section of the county would have been left without any regular form of public transport.
The Joint Oireachtas Committee on Transport and Communications today (Wednesday, October 17) met with key stakeholders in the provision of Ireland's bus services into the future.
The meeting's discussions mainly centred on developments in relation to Bus Éireann's national bus routes and the impact that the renewal of Public Service Obligation Contracts may have on public and private bus services.
Committee Chairman Tom Hayes TD said afterwards that the meeting was a valuable opportunity to engage with the main players involved in providing bus services country-wide, adding that Committee Members had expressed concern there are towns and villages across the country that lack adequate public transport services.
"The decreasing pool of state funding for public transport is hindering the delivery of some rural services in particular. The committee believes that a review of all rural transport services, including school transport and transport provided by the HSE, might uncover potential efficiencies leading to enhanced services and possible economies save money," Deputy Hayes said.
The current Public Service Obligation (PSO) contracts with Bus Éireann, administered by the NTA, which provide funding for socially necessary but financially unviable public transport services, are due to lapse in December 2014. The NTA is considering how best to award the funding post 2014.
The representatives of private operators are calling for a full, open and fair tendering of all PSO bus services. Meanwhile, Bus Éireann CEO Martin Nolan, pointing to his company's reputation over 25 years of service, said that it was in a strong position to continue delivering bus services nationwide.
Mr Nolan said his company understood the authority's primary objective is to ensure any new contract at a minimum maintains the arrangements currently in place, represents value for money to the exchequer and will be monitored strongly for quality.