Thursday, 11 June 2009
Shane Ross (Independent)
I wish to raise the need for the Minister for Transport to instruct Dublin Bus to cease predatory activities against private operators in the Dublin region, as exemplified by the recent issues between Swords Express and Dublin Bus. The Minister for Transport will be familiar with the issue of the Dublin Bus monopoly indulging in predatory pricing. Circle Line has already claimed that it was forced to go into liquidation in June 2008 owing to unfair competition from Dublin Bus and because it was subject to route saturation from Dublin Bus immediately after it started. This is a problem no Department or Minister should tolerate and it raises questions about the attitude of the Department of Transport to competition.
I am specifically drawing attention to the situation in Swords in north Dublin because it is an especially bad case of Dublin Bus indulging in predatory pricing where it faces competition. Swords, as the Minister knows, is Ireland's largest town, but many parts of it do not have a regular express bus service to the city centre. The only choice people have is to take a circuitous route on Dublin Bus or to walk the whole way. Some parts of Swords have no service outside peak times. When a private operator offered to provide a service for the people and take on that risk, the people of Swords welcomed it. It was no surprise that Dublin Bus suddenly decided, having inadequately provided for this route, to provide adequately for it. In this case, when it saw a private operator working, it descended on the route and gave it saturation coverage. That is empire building - putting the private operator out of business then removing the fleet and going back to square one. It is unacceptable.
In this case the private operator must compete with a State subsidised service which was commenced after Swords Express started its operations. Swords Express wants to provide an all-day express bus service to north, south and west Swords but is being thwarted by the Department of Transport because for some mysterious reason the Department will not issue Swords Express with a licence. It is now 16 months since the company applied for a licence and it wants to extend that service until much later in the evening. It is not being allowed by the Department of Transport. It is obvious the Department in the issuing of licences in this case and others is giving preferential treatment to Dublin Bus.
This is not the way in the present circumstances, where small businesses are crying out for help, to assist a small business to give employment and I suspect there is more to this than just the semi-State monopoly ethos. I guess there are trade unions behind this that oppose competition at all costs. It is one example of the predatory pricing in which Dublin Bus has indulged. I ask the Minister to act now before a crisis occurs for the company and to put an end to such practices by a semi-State body for which he has full responsibility.