THE National Transport Authority (NTA) has confirmed that Clare Bus will be eligible to tender for nine local transport routes, while the two parties enter into a mediation process to resolve a dispute over funding.
The accessible transport provider has had its fleet parked up since the end of March, which it controversially lost 12 routes to two new providers. Since then, its Feakle-based staff have been paid through the Wage Subsidy Scheme and intensive political efforts to resolve a row over arrears the company says it is owed continue. The NTA has now sought expressions of interest for nine Clare routes and has told The Champion that it estimates that the process of appointing a service provider will be complete by mid-August.
Ger Hoey, Chairperson of Clare Accessible Transport (CAT) who operate Clare Bus said he is hopeful that a speedy mediation process will increase its chances of being able to make a competitive tender. “We would prefer to be seeing tenders go out on all 12 routes,” he said. “In the meantime, we are relying on the Wage Subsidy Scheme and don’t know how long that will continue. So, we would like mediation to begin sooner rather than later. I don’t that should be an overly complex process as it involves examining financial documents.”
The NTA has confirmed that the mediation and the procurement process can run side-by-side. “The Authority is entering into a mediation process on the amount allegedly outstanding to Clare Bus and that matter only,” a spokesperson said. “The mediation process will take a short while to organise and consideration will have to be given as to how it can take place during the current Covid-19 restrictions. Terms of reference need to be drafted and agreement reached by both parties as to the exact process. The Authority is currently exploring a number of options in terms of whom might undertake the mediation process and hopes to issue a proposal shortly.
”Whilst the procurement process for the nine bundles of Local Link services has now commenced and will run for a number of weeks, other processes can run concurrently. As such, the mediation process in respect of the alleged arrears that Clare Bus claims are due to the company by the Authority, can continue during this process.”
Councillor Pat Hayes, said, “Clare Bus must be operation in order to have a chance of success in tendering. That’s why the issue of arrears must be addressed urgently.”