Tuesday, 10 May 2022
Saincheisteanna Tráthúla - Topical Issue Debate
I thank the Minister of State for the reply but she cannot talk about Covid-19 supports because, in fairness to these operators, most of them had to take eight or ten passengers, so they were in an absolutely dire situation at that time.
Supports are good at any time. I respect that but it cannot be seen as those supports carrying operators over for the remainder of their lives. The bottom line is that it is very obvious what is happening. The Minister for Transport is wiping out private service operators. That is how they tell me they feel. Outside of Dublin, the local commercial bus operators are the biggest operators in the country. They carry out 30 million passenger trips yearly.
In a recent meeting with the Minister for Transport the private operators asked a straight-up question as to why were they not included in the 20% bus fare decrease for the youth on their buses. They were told by the Minister, Deputy Ryan, that it was for financial reasons that he could not go ahead. To their astonishment, a few weeks later, he announced a 50% decrease and again exempted them. Where did this Minister find the money that he did not have a few weeks earlier? Was it carbon tax money robbed from the hard-working people of rural Ireland?
It is no disrespect to the Minister of State, because she is doing whatever is asked of her, but it is a disgrace that the Minister is not here to answer straight-up questions and give us a date that the private service operators, who carry more than 50% of bus passengers in Ireland, can pass on the 20% or 50% decrease to their customers. If he does not, he will be the cause of disconnecting public transport in rural Ireland, as is happening already.
It is an attack on our youth. This is a great idea. I have no objection whatsoever to passing on a 20% or 50% deduction to the people who travel on the DART or the Luas. I wish them the very best of luck. We should be delighted for them but if it is good enough to pass it on to them, it is good enough to pass it on to the people of rural Ireland, whether they are in west Cork, Mayo or Wexford. The Minister of Transport has failed in his duty to do so because he cannot see outside the Pale. It is Dublin or nothing. That is what is happening here. The private operator will go out of business and we cannot afford to allow that happen in this country.