THE National Transport Authority (NTA) has agreed to enter talks with Clare Bus in relation to payments the company believes it is owned for providing vital services in rural parts of the county.
In correspondence to Deputy Joe Carey, NTA CEO Anne Graham confirmed that the authority has agreed to “enter into a mediation on the amount allegedly outstanding to Clare Bus”.
The potential breakthrough in the long-running dispute comes as the NTA also confirmed that nine key local routes are being put out to tender in the coming days. The Fine Gael TD welcomed the positive development and urged Clare Bus to enter the tender process.
“Hopefully this will be the beginning of a process that can finally see a resolution to this dispute and I hope the NTA and Clare Bus use the opportunity so this vital service is not lost to the communities it serves,” he said.
The row over the payments has become one of the major roadblocks preventing a resolution to the dispute that threatens the survival of Feakle-based organisation and the livelihoods of its 25 drivers and staff.
“Cool heads are needed now,” noted Deputy Carey, “and a willingness on both sides to do what is necessary to ensure this vital service is kept alive, along with the employment it provides, during these difficult times.”
Meanwhile, Deputy Cathal Crowe welcomed news of the publication by the NTA of an audit of Clare Bus which was undertaken last year. “The NTA has acceded to my request to make that audit public,” the Fianna Fáil TD said , “and that should answer some of questions that have arisen over the disputed funding.”
Councillor Pat Hayes thanked the Oireachtas members for keeping the Clare Bus issue on the agenda and welcomed news of the new procurement process. “Clare Bus must be operation in order to have a chance of success in tendering,” he noted. “That’s why the issue of arrears must be addressed urgently. The situation that pertained previously meant that members of Clare Bus made a small financial contribution to the service. The NTA removed that funding option, however, with knock-on consequences for Clare Bus. There are some shoots of hope certainly, but financially Clare Bus has been left on shaky ground that has to be addressed.”