A REMOTE meeting is to take place this afternoon (Thursday) between representatives of the National Transport Authority (NTA) and Clare’s four TDs, on the issue of Clare Bus.
Deputy Cathal Crowe of Fianna Fáil confirmed that the teleconference will take place, but insisted that that the authority must also meet the operators, Clare Accessible Transport (CAT).
“I welcome the offer of the NTA to meet with myself and my county colleagues this week,” said Deputy Crowe. “It will be an opportunity for us to seek some clarity on their plans for Clare Bus, as this saga has been going on for far, far too long now. But I am dismayed to see that they are continuing to refuse to meet representatives of Clare Bus. I have confirmed my attendance at the meeting and have also asked the NTA to arrange a meeting with Clare Bus themselves but will push their case anyway. I fully support Clare Accessible Transport being awarded the contract for the service they have provided so effectively for so many years and am baffled by the NTA’s decisions to date.”
Last week, CAT asked the NTA to enter into mediation with a view to restoring its routes. In a four-page letter, seen by The Clare Champion, the board asked NTA CEO Anne Graham for more time to sort out the financing row and has proposed that at mediator be appointed. The letter raised issues about payment arrears, the contractual framework and the accessibility of buses currently service the routes.
Deputy Crowe agreed that a mediator might provide clarity on matter: “We now need to be in the space of mediation. There’s a lot of uncertainty over Clare Bus. There can be no stonewalling Clare Bus, there has to be full engagement right now, gearing towards have continuity of the service that so many people depend on. I have had a Zoom meeting with the operators of Clare Bus and I’m au fait with the problems that they face. They’ve been short-changed by the NTA. There’s a lot of outstanding monies owed to Clare Bus. There’s also 25 jobs at huge risk in Feakle and East Clare.”
At the end of March, following a dispute over funding, the NTA unveiled two new operators on 12 county-wide Local Link routes. Since then, Clare Bus has been assisting the Covid-19 response and using the government’s pandemic wage subsidy scheme to pay staff.