Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Transport Robert Troy has criticised Minister Shane Ross for taking a ‘hands-off’ approach to dealing with problems at Bus Éireann.

Deputy Troy has called on Minister Ross to acknowledge the difficulties facing the company and to set out his plan for overcoming them.

“Bus Éireann’s financial position has worsened considerably since Minister Ross took office. However it seems that the Minister is oblivious to this problem and is unaware that the company is on the verge of shutting down many of its key routes serving large swathes of the country,” said Deputy Troy.

“Bus Éireann reported losses of up to €5.6 million for 2015, an estimated €6m in 2016 and now it is anticipated that losses will exceed €7m for 2017. This is deeply worrying considering the improving economy and demonstrates that there is a fundamental problem at the heart of Bus Éireann’s operations.

“The semi-state company faults some Expressway services for the significant mounting losses. As a result, the company is planning to make sweeping changes to routes serving vast swathes of the country, which it will publish in an upcoming report by Grant Thornton auditors.

“I fear that many large areas in between big towns and cities will have no direct Expressway services to Dublin or other cities. This is further evidence of the neglect of rural Ireland by Fine Gael and their Independent colleagues.

“In response to questioning from Fianna Fáil on this issue, the Minister for Transport has continually shirked his responsibility to maintain an adequate level of public transportation for rural towns.

“The Minister has continually refused to push the National Transport Authority (NTA) to include wider concerns, such as rural isolation, in its decisions over whether to grant or refuse bus route licenses to operators.

“Without doubt the Route Licensing system needs to be reviewed. In particular, the NTA needs to be given greater licensing powers to approve or reject route amendments by Bus Éireann and private operators.

“Fianna Fáil will be bringing forward legislation to make these changes. It is important that the future of Bus Éireann is secured, but the semi-state company must not abandon its obligation to serve communities right across the country,” concluded Deputy Troy.