herald

Monday 21 August 2017

Union anger as Dublin bus loses control of city routes to UK firm

Dublin Bus suffered a blow as Anne Graham announced buses with Go-Ahead’s livery will be seen on the city’s roads from next year
Dublin Bus suffered a blow as Anne Graham announced buses with Go-Ahead’s livery will be seen on the city’s roads from next year

More than 20 Dublin Bus routes will be operated by UK-based transport firm Go-Ahead from November next year.

The National Transport Authority (NTA) has announced Go-Ahead as the preferred bidder to operate 10pc of all bus routes in the capital after Dublin Bus failed to retain the contract.

The move will have no impact on customers, said the NTA.

The chief executive, Anne Graham, said the move would result in improved services.

Fares will remain the same and the free travel scheme will remain in place.

The only change will be that buses on the affected routes will have a different livery.

Benefit

"This is ultimately about improving bus services for Dublin and the NTA is confident that passengers will benefit from this decision," said Ms Graham.

"We believe that a new operator in the market will bring a fresh dimension to the way that services are offered.

"Under the provisions of the tender, not only will service levels on the routes in question be maintained, they will actually be increased by about 35pc.

"Passengers in areas served by these routes have absolutely no reason to worry about this change. Matters such as fares, frequency and scheduling for the service will all be set by the NTA, not the operator."

Go-Ahead operates a range of regional bus services across the UK and accounts for 7pc of the market. It also operates services on behalf of Transport for London.

Go-Ahead will begin operating some of the 24 routes from November next year and all routes by February 2019.

Among the services affected is the one between Dun Laoghaire and Kilmacanogue, Killiney, Tallaght and Kilternan.

Another is the service between Blanchardstown and Kilbarrack, Tallaght and Liffey Valley.

The NTA previously said operating costs could drop by as much as 30pc as a result of the changes.

Go-Ahead will be paid a fixed fee through payments made by the Government to the NTA each year. Payments will be withheld if service levels suffer.

On some outsourced routes, additional services will be provided by Go-Ahead. Among these is a new route - the 175 - from Citywest to UCD.

The NTA insisted the model being used was similar to that operated by Luas, where the State owns the infrastructure and a private company operates the services.

The decision to outsource was made by the previous Fine Gael/Labour government. The only other short-listed company was Dublin Bus.

The NTA said that Dublin Bus would operate additional services and that no drivers would be obliged to transfer to Go-Ahead under a deal struck with unions.

However, one of the biggest transport unions, the National Bus and Rail Union (NBRU), said it would seek to represent workers at Go-Ahead and would ensure members were not forced to move.

"Despite the fact that Dublin Bus, with the vital support of our members, has been hitting all the stringent performance related targets set down by the NTA, this Government has decided to pump significant amounts of taxpayers' money into the bank accounts of multinational operators," said general secretary Dermot O'Leary.

"The NTA and the Department of Transport have decided that workers' rights are up for grabs and can be used, Dutch auction style, to help towards bidding for State contracts.

"The NBRU will focus on ensuring that affected members on the privatised routes will not be forced to move from their current workplace.

Recruit

"We will also move to recruit those new entrants that will work for the private operator to ensure that they will be properly represented and work towards achieving similar terms and conditions as those workers we represent in the State-owned companies."

Dublin Bus said it was "disappointed" it had not won the contract, saying it had submitted a "high quality, competitive bid".

It will carry more than 130 million passengers this year and introduce 100 new buses to grow numbers.

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