A city councillor has hit out at the refusal of the National Transport Authority (NTA ) to bring cheaper bus fares to thousands of potential commuters in Knocknacarra.
Independent Councillor Donal Lyons described as ‘ridiculous’ the response of the head of the NTA to question why services provided by the private company City Direct were not classified as Public Service Obligation (PSO ) routes.
Only services provided by Bus Éireann in Galway City are run under PSO contracts, which results in state subsidies — and a 20% fares reduction for commuters as well as ‘real-time’ information at bus stops to let would-be passengers know when the next bus is due.
Cllr Lyons said he was ‘stunned’ by a reply from the NTA Chief Executive, Anne Graham, to parliamentary questions tabled on the issue by Galway West Independent TD Noel Grealish.
Having outlined that the principle of a Public Service Obligation was to ensure public service transport services which an operator would not provide to the same extent if it were considering its own commercial interests, Ms Graham added:
“As City Direct, a commercial company, currently provides a service in the Knocknacarra area on a commercial basis it could be argued that a PSO does not exist in the area.”
Cllr Lyons said that this NTA attitude made no sense, as Bus Éireann was also a commercial entity and all of its services in Galway operated under PSO contracts, even though some of them were very well supported and viable even without a subsidy.
“The reality is that Bus Éireann only services about one-third of the Knocknacarra area, with the rest covered by City Direct, so you have thousands of potential commuters being treated as second class citizens when it comes to public transport.
“Why does the NTA think that there is a need to provide subsidies and cheaper fares to everywhere else in Galway, but not to the majority of the 17,000-plus people who live in Knocknacarra. The response to Deputy Grealish’s parliamentary questions is just ridiculous,” he added.
Cllr Lyons said the announcement last week by the NTA of a radical overhaul of bus services in Galway was very welcome, and would benefit the Knocknacarra area greatly. He was particularly pleased to see included in the plans an extension of bus services to the Upper Ballymoneen Road, a 24-hour service linking Knocknacarra with the city centre and the east of the city, and improved services between Knocknacarra and Salthill.
“But there is no reason why the NTA should wait until these plans are implemented before having all of the bus routes in Knocknacarra brought under PSO contracts, with the benefits that would bring to local commuters,” he added.
Meanwhile, Deputy Noel Grealish said he intended to write personally to Transport Minister Eamon Ryan asking him to ensure that there was a level playing field for bus services in Knocknacarra.
“Minister Ryan and his party are very vocal about the need for people to leave their cars at home and use public transport, so he can surely see that it’s not right that more than 10,000 people living in Knocknacarra have to pay extra if they want to use the only public transport available to them,” he added.