Thursday, 17 December 2020
Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport
279. To ask the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the discussions he has had with his ministerial colleagues on providing assistance to the bus and coach industry particularly companies that provide tourist coach services; the results of these discussions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44353/20]
Firstly I would like to reassure the Deputy that both the National Transport Authority (NTA) and my Department have been engaging directly with commercial bus operators throughout the crisis to help inform policy decisions in relation to the public transport sector as we continue to deal with the impact of Covid-19. In this context, both the Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport & Media; and my Department have been liaising with the Coach Tourism & Transport Council of Ireland (CTTC) since early May - 11 meetings have taken place, the most recent being the 27th November 2020.
I am aware of the very difficult business environment that the commercial operators have been facing. Indeed, across Government we are acutely aware that the Covid-19 situation presents huge challenges for many business sectors.
Public transport is a key facilitator of interaction in the economy and society. It is an efficient and sustainable way of getting people to work, education, shopping and other social engagements. The essential nature of these services has been acknowledged a number of times by the Government in recent months, most notably in the decision to provide additional funding for public service obligation, PSO, services and the introduction of temporary funding measures for the licensed bus sector.
These temporary funding supports have been introduced to help ease the financial pressure on operators arising from the fall in passenger numbers and associated drop in fare revenue as a result of Covid-19. They are aimed at ensuring the continued operation of essential licensed bus services for a period of up to six months and are targeted at covering the gap between specified costs and the revenues generated on the services. The supports are targeted at those classes of bus services where a clear public interest justification supports such intervention, in line with relevant state aid considerations. The NTA, as the public transport licensing agency, is responsible for administering the funding support through contracts with the relevant operators.
These supports are in addition to the suite of other financial support measures that the Government has introduced to help mitigate the impact of Covid-19, including the pandemic unemployment payment which operators can avail of and which remains open to new applicants until the end of the year and a Covid-19 enterprise support grant which can be put towards the costs associated with reopening a business, including the purchase of cleaning materials and personal protective equipment.
Other measures introduced includes rates waivers, lending facilities, equity injection and business advisory supports, all of which will help to improve cash flow. The Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation has also set up on online tool to help support Irish start-ups and SMEs to navigate the range of Government supports and identify which support may be most relevant to their business.
Concerning coach tourism - a fund of €10m was made available under the July Stimulus package to assist the Coach Tourism sector. The Coach Tourism Business Continuity Scheme is administered by Fáilte Ireland and was open for applications up to 5th November 2020. This scheme is under the remit of my colleague the Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media, Deputy Catherine Martin.