Tuesday, 10 May 2022
Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport
247. To ask the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the number of plug-in hybrid buses purchased for the public service obligation fleet in each of the past six years and to date in 2022; and the number of fully electric buses purchased for the fleet in each of the past six years and to date in 2022, in tabular form. [23273/22]
As Minister for Transport, I have responsibility for policy and overall funding in relation to public transport. The National Transport Authority (NTA) has responsibility for the planning and development of public transport infrastructure, including the procurement of the national bus fleet.
Noting the NTA's responsibility in the matter, I have referred the Deputy's question to the NTA for a direct reply. Please contact my private office if you do not receive a reply within 10 days.
248. To ask the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if consideration will be given to enabling commercial bus services to reduce their fares in line with reductions in public service obligation, PSO, fares through financial assistance from his Department considering more than half of all kilometres operated in Ireland are by commercial operators and the new PSO rates put them at a competitive disadvantage; if consideration will be given to providing the same level of financial assistance that is currently being offered to PSO services to commercial bus operators; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23278/22]
249. To ask the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the details of the plans that his Department has to support commercial bus operators in Ireland against recent rising costs in service delivery; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23279/22]
258. To ask the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the increased patronage on public service obligation bus and train services since the price reduction of 20% in fares was introduced; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23470/22]
259. To ask the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the reason that all services operated under licence to the National Transport Authority, including private operators and Bus Éireann Expressway services were not given financial assistance to reduce their fares from the 1 April 2022; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23471/22]
I propose to take Questions Nos. 248, 249, 258, 259 and 260 together.
As Minister for Transport, I have responsibility for policy and overall funding in relation to public transport; I am not involved in the day-to-day operations of public transport, nor decisions on fares. It is the National Transport Authority (NTA) that has responsibility for the regulation of fares charged to passengers in respect of public transport services, provided under public service obligation (PSO) contracts.
Licensed bus and coach operators are an integral part of the overall public transport system, particularly in areas around the country which are not covered by existing public service bus and rail services. In recognition of the important role these operators play, the Government has continued to provide temporary financial supports throughout the Covid-19 pandemic for certain licensed commercial services, with a view to protecting capacity across the public transport sector throughout the crisis.
In acknowledgment of the continuing difficulties facing this sector, these supports for the commercial sector were recently extended up to the 30th of June 2022. To date over €60m has been provided to support the Commercial Bus Operators during this challenging time.
In view of the importance of incentivising young people to use public transport, as part of Budget 2022 I secured €25m of funding to provide for the introduction of a young adult card (YAC) which will allow any person nationwide who is between 19 and 23 years old, to avail of an entitlement for discounted travel costs, and to increase the level of discount over and above the current student discount to an average of discount of 50% across all services, including city, intercity and rural services.
It is envisaged that the YAC will initially be made available on PSO services, and then broadened to include commercial operators at a later date. This will not only promote modal shift in the transport sector among this age group but should also contribute towards a reduced reliance on private transport with associated benefit of transport emission savings.
However, it is important to note that it is technically more challenging to roll-out fare initiatives such as the Young Adult Card on the commercial bus network than it is on the LEAP enabled PSO network. As such, it will take longer to make this fare discount available to Commercial Bus Operators. The National Transport Authority (NTA) is in detailed discussions with transport operators and the Department of Transport regarding the range of issues that need to be addressed. To assist with this process, the NTA has established a joint working group with commercial bus operators to consider options and develop a plan to implement the Young Adult Card on Commercial Bus Operators in as timely a manner as possible, taking account of current ticketing capabilities to ensure a viable scheme is implemented
As the Deputies will be aware a 20% average reduction is being introduced on PSO services as part of a suite of Government measures to help combat the rising cost of living. This fare reduction was applied to all services outside the Greater Dublin Area (GDA) from the 11th of April and it is intended to roll-out the next stage of the reductions on GDA services from the 9th of May. The fare reduction will be in place until the end of the year. The Government decision did not include broadening this initiative to include commercial bus operators.
In relation to the increased patronage on public service obligation bus and train services since the price reduction of 20% in fares was introduced, this would also be a matter for the NTA who are responsible for the collection and publication of statistics relating to public transport.
In view of the above, I have forwarded the Deputies specific questions to the NTA for direct reply. Please advise my private office if you do not receive a response within ten working days.