MINISTER Simon Harris has undertaken to ask the minister for transport to engage with Clare’s Independent TD over the decision of the National Transport Authority (NTA) to terminate the contracts of Clare Bus. It follows an appeal by Deputy Michael McNamara who told fellow Dáil members that the timing of the NTA’s actions had been “loathsome”.
“Just as the restrictions were introduced, [Clare Bus] had a contract for Local Link services, which was dropped by the National Transport Authority,” he said. “It’s one thing I think, we would all agree that private companies shouldn’t use this as a cloak to break bad news and to do very Draconian things to staff members, but when the National Transport Authority does it, I think it’s a particularly loathsome thing to do… And, of course, for the staff who were protesting outside of this house last June, can’t protest. They can’t even protest at home in Clare because effectively, everybody’s locked down… I’ve written to the Minister for Transport, I’ve phoned the Minister for Transport and I’ve received replies to neither. He is still the Minister for Transport, I appreciate he is in lock-down, but he is still the minister.”
Responding on behalf of the Taoiseach, Minister Simon Harris said: “I will certainly raise it with the Minister for Transport and the Department of Transport and ask that they link directly back in with Deputy McNamara,” he said.
At the end of last month, following a dispute over funding levels for the accessible local transport service, and despite intensive negotiations involving local TDs, the NTA unveiled new operators on 12 routes previously served by Clare Bus. Three went to the company ranked in second place in last year’s tendering process, while nine went to another company on an interim basis for three months.
Clare Bus had secured all 12 routes in the NTA procurement process at the end of December but declined to sign contracts until it secured an assurance on what it regards as a significant underpayment dating back to last June. When the company had not signed the contracts by a deadline of March 20, an alternative provider was put on the routes. While the company, on the advice of Clare Dáil deputies, did sign the documents on Wednesday March 25, the NTA judged this to be too late. By March 27 it issued a press release advising of alternative operators.