LIMITS on the number of passengers who can safely use public transport could have implications for the ability of Clare Bus to tender for nine local transport routes.
Earlier this month, the National Transport Authority (NTA) sought Expressions of Interest for the routes, which had been operated by Clare Bus until the end of March. Due to a funding dispute, the Feakle-based accessible transport service lost a total of 12 routes and is hopeful of being able to tender again for nine of them.
The chairperson of Clare Accessible Transport (CAT), which trades as Clare Bus, told The Champion the board would have to examine the tender documents in detail before making an application.
“We have expressed our interest and the next step is that the NTA will issue nine individual tender calls,” he said. “We expect to receive those this week, but until we look at them, we don’t know exactly what will be required. Once the management team examines each route, the board will meet to decide if we will apply. We are conscious that there may be tweaks and issues to consider in the light of Covid-19. That will be a big issue for every operator. If, for example, you have a 50-seater bus which will only be able to carry 14 people at a time, that is a challenge and we would have to consider the impact of the restrictions.”
Mr Hoey agreed that if the social distancing requirement were to be reduced to 1-metre, that would help matters.
“I would anticipate that mid-July will be the deadline for the return of tender bids,” the CAT chairperson added. “Those will be sent to the Transport Coordination Unit (TCU) in Limerick and we understand that the NTA will handle the procurement process after that.”
The jobs of 25 staff, who are currently availing of wage supports rolled out in response to the pandemic, hang in the balance until the route licences are awarded.
Clare Bus is currently in a mediation process with the NTA in a bid to resolve funding arrears the not-for-profit company believes it is owed.