'€5m spend on diesel buses is very regrettable', admits Ross
The Government has been criticised over plans to spend €5m on diesel buses, with accusations that it has reneged on commitments to address environmental concerns.
Transport Minister Shane Ross said it was "very regrettable" that buses ordered and due to be delivered in the coming months would not be more environmentally friendly.
He said the Government is transitioning to a green fleet and the use of electric buses but it will only stop purchasing diesel buses after July 2019.
He said he did not know how many buses would be delivered as part of a €5m spend before next July but confirmed new buses bought before then will be diesel.
Fianna Fail TD Robert Troy said the move means Ireland is leaving itself "wide open" to EU fines for failing to meet environmental targets.
"We haven't a hope of meeting our 2020 environmental targets," he added.
Mr Ross said the Government was tied to purchasing the diesel vehicles as part of a contract previously signed with a supplier.
He added they were intended to be the last diesel buses bought for public transport.
The minister also responded to the idea of public bus routes being put out to tender.
It comes after the National Transport Authority proposed that up to 10pc of routes currently operated by Bus Eireann be put out to tender.
Mr Ross denied that this will lead to the privatisation of public transport services.
He said no public assets will be transferred to private operators if they are successful in bidding to run buses on routes currently operated by Bus Eireann.
He added that the tender would not damage Bus Eireann or Dublin Bus and will benefit customers.
"A tendering process is taking place and Bus Eireann and Dublin Bus are tendering for the routes as well," Mr Ross said.
"The objective is not privatisation but to introduce more competition into the market to benefit the consumer."
Sinn Fein TD Imelda Munster said allowing the routes to be run by private operators will make State-owned Bus Eireann less profitable.
"Bus Eireann can apply for the tender and they may or may not get it. When they don't get it they straight away see a reduction in revenue," she said.
"Every time a tender goes out you are weakening the national bus service."