Thursday, 11 June 2009
Michael Finneran (Roscommon-South Leitrim, Fianna Fail)
The Senator has raised concerns about Dublin Bus engaging in predatory behaviour in the operation of its network of services in Dublin and has referred specifically to the routes operated by Swords Express between Swords and the city centre and by Dublin Bus on the 41X service from Swords to the UCD campus at Belfield via the city centre. Dublin Bus has operated for some years a range of services between Swords and the city centre and, in particular, operates six services a day on the 41X services between Swords and Belfield via the city centre. These services are provided in the morning only.
In October 2007, a licence was granted by the Department of Transport under the Road Transport Act 1932 to Swords Express to operate 91 services per day between Swords and the city centre via the Dublin Port Tunnel. Subsequently, Dublin Bus notified the Department of its intention to re-route some of its existing services, including the 41X service from Swords, through the tunnel to provide customers with a faster journey time.
In response, the Department advised Dublin Bus on 20 February 2008 and again on 20 March 2008 that its proposals in respect of the 41X services would give rise to competition with the licensed service by Swords Express. The company was accordingly advised that should it wish to pursue the introduction of the proposed service changes, it must apply for the Minister's consent under section 25 of the Transport Act 1958. Alternatively, the company was advised that it could review its proposals to avoid competition with the licensed operator.
On 5 June 2008, Dublin Bus submitted a revised proposal for the rerouting of the 41X. The Department considered the proposal and was satisfied that the changes proposed would not compete with the Swords Express service and concluded, therefore, that it did not require ministerial consent in accordance with section 25 of the Transport Act 1958. Dublin Bus was advised on the 12 June 2008 that it could proceed with the proposed changes.
That determination was the subject of a High Court challenge in October 2008 brought by the operators of the Swords Express bus service. As part of the out of court settlement of the High Court proceedings, the Department undertook to carry out an investigation under section 25(2) of the Transport Act 1958 regarding the decision in respect of the 41X service and the parties were invited to make submissions as to whether the Minister should grant consent under section 25(1) of the 1958 Act to Dublin Bus to continue to operate the 41X service on its current route.
Having considered those submissions, the Minister has confirmed that consent. However, as consent under section 25(1) of the 1958 Act is based on the determination that the service is in competition with the Swords Express service, Dublin Bus has been informed that State funding cannot be allocated to the operation of the 41X service. The company has, therefore, been requested to provide the Department with confirmation of compliance with that requirement. It is open to Dublin Bus to present proposals to the Department for an altered service on the 41X route that would not compete with the licensed operation. The operators of the Swords Express service are being advised of the position.