A PROCESS to resolve a dispute between the providers of long-running accessible bus service for Clare and the National Transport Authority (NTA) will get under way before the end of the week.
News that the mediation process with Feakle-based Clare Bus will start on Friday was confirmed to Fianna Fáil Deputy Cathal Crowe.
A mediator was appointed in the long-running dispute in May, following claims from Clare Bus operators Clare Accessible Transport (CAT) that they have been owed money since last summer.
In the meantime, new operators were appointed to 12 routes in Clare as part of the Local Link service.
“This mediation process is a significant breakthrough and as late as last week, I had sought an update from the Transport Minister on when it would begin,” said Deputy Crowe. “I’m delighted now to receive confirmation that it will begin on July 31. I strongly hope this is the beginning of a resolution in this dispute, which has been raging on for so long now.”
The Meelick-based TD noted the ongoing concerns for more than 20 staff of the company.
“Clare Bus workers have unnecessarily been put on Covid payments I hope they can get back to work and their good service can run in its normal form once again. I know from the many representations being made to my office how important Clare Bus is to so many people in our county and the blue and yellow buses are sorely missed on our counties roads. It’s critical now that we see a positive outcome from this mediation process, and I urge both Clare Accessible Transport and the National Transport Authority to enter these talks with a determination to achieve the best result possible for the people of Clare.”
Meanwhile, parallel to the mediation process, Clare Bus is in the process of applying for licences to run nine routes which it previously operated around the county. These were put out tender by the NTA earlier this summer and the company has now confirmed its interest in the routes.
Tender documents will be sent to the Transport Coordination Unit (TCU) in Limerick for initial assessment, and it is understood that the NTA will review the bids thereafter.
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.