Bus Éireann has lost the contract for six Kildare bus routes after an open tender was won by the UK firm Go-Ahead.
Anne Graham, the CEO of the National Transport Authority briefed the media this morning on the award of a contract for the provision of a select number of bus routes in Kildare (120, 120C, 123, 124, 126 and 130) under the Bus Marketing Opening (BMO) process.
These routes link Dublin city centre to towns such as Athy, Kilcullen, Kildare, Maynooth, Naas, Newbridge and Rathangan in County Kildare; Edenderry and Tullamore in County Offaly; Portlaoise, County Laois; and Enfield, County Meath.
The National Transport Authority (NTA) said the decision followed a competitive process involving bids from Irish and international companies.
Services by Go Ahead will start to come into operation at the end of this year or early next year.
The NTA said the change to the new operator will be seamless from the point of view of the passenger, although with an additional 11% vehicle kilometres envisaged under the contract, the level of service across the routes is set to improve appreciably.
"The routes will operate under the ‘Transport for Ireland’ branding and livery. Schedules and timetables will be determined by the NTA, and while there will be some changes to timetables, the effect of these changes will be to optimise the services to the benefit of customers," it said.
"There will be no changes to fares. Leap Card and Free Travel Public Services Card will continue to be accepted on all these services. The routes will continue to be included in NTA’s Real Time Passenger Information and Journey Planner platforms."
A total of 23 new vehicles will be purchased by NTA for deployment on these routes. This includes 13 double-deck-coaches and 12 single-deck regional buses.
The NTA said all the newly-purchased vehicles buses will have a wheelchair space and a buggy space, plus a motorised ramp at the entrance door to allow wheelchairs to board easily.
USB chargers will be installed at every seat and WIFI will be available throughout. The buses will also be equipped with audio “next stop” announcements and a visual display of the name of the next stop.
In addition, 10 coaches that are already in service in the area will remain on these routes.
Anne Graham Chief Executive Officer of the National Transport Authority said: “Ultimately this is about improving public transport for the commuters in Kildare.
“We believe that bringing in a new operator into the market will bring a fresh dimension to the sector.
“It has also been the experience internationally that introducing some level of competitive tendering into PSO operations like this, usually results in a much better deal for passengers and for the public in general.
“So bus customers along the Kildare corridor will be getting more services, all with a higher level of customer experience. During the course of the contract, as more people take to the bus, it would be our intention to further increase frequency and improve the offering across the board.”
Bus Éireann chief executive Ray Hernan expressed his disappointment at the news.
Having successfully won a competitive tender to operate Waterford City routes under a new NTA (National Transport Authority) contract last November, there was some anticipation that the company could retain the routes.
Mr Hernan said that while such news was difficult for staff and management, there is much to remain optimistic about and that the 'public transport growth agenda' will open up new opportunities to expand services on other corridors.
"While today's news is disappointing for everyone at the company, I believe we must now focus on delivering even higher standards of service on the 240 routes we continue to serve, to ensure we protect and grow our position for the future. While it has been a challenging year with significant change for all of our staff, this news indicates that while it was heartening to win our first competitive tender last November against four other bidders - we must now strive to be even more competitive, not just on cost, but on the quality of our service delivery," he said.
“Over the past few months, we have implemented the final phase of our driver work practice change and we are significantly restructuring our business and strengthening our management team to focus on improved service delivery - which is our number one priority. Our business transformation measures are critical to securing our future and we will not relent on ensuring that the company is even better positioned to win business in the future, particularly as the use of public transport is on the rise."
Mr Hernan highlighted that the company will continue to work with the NTA to enhance services on other routes which are poised for expansion, particularly since many fares were significantly reduced as a passenger incentive only last December.
"We are very much focused on the future where there is much opportunity and potential for growth. I wish Go-ahead well in their endeavours and we in Bus Éireann now look forward to working with all stakeholders, including the NTA to continue the growth of public transport" Mr. Hernan concluded.