Belfast Telegraph

Nothing like enough funding for bus and rail services, says Shane Ross

Transport Minister Shane Ross has said the government gives "nothing like enough" money towards public bus and rail services.

Before a parliamentary watchdog, Mr Ross said it would be wonderful if state funding was higher and insisted he did not back privatisation.

The minister was being questioned at the Joint Committee of Transport, Tourism and Sport about the yearly public service obligation (PSO) subvention.

This is government money for bus and rail services which do not make enough money to operate on their own but are deemed necessary.

"It is nothing like enough," he said of the funding. "It would be much better if it was higher."

Last year, PSO funding rose from around 200 million euro to 228 million euro. It was the first time in years the subvention had increased, after years of being cut back.

Mr Ross said he was working to achieve a bigger increase for next year.

"I hope we will be able to improve it on a gradual but consistent basis in the years to come," he said. "Of course it is not adequate."

Mr Ross denied there were any "underhand or behind-the-scenes" moves towards privatisation of bus and rail services.

"I have no ideological commitment to that and I have no plans to do that," he said.

Controversial proposals by Bus Eireann to separate its loss-making Expressway service from the rest of the company, cutting staff and pay, have fuelled fears of privatisation.

Mr Ross said Bus Eireann bosses met him last month to outline the "dire state" the company is in but that he did not approve or disapprove any of their plans.

The minister added that major transport projects such as the Metro North and Dart Underground have not been shelved but were simply postponed because of the lack of public money after the financial crash.


From Belfast Telegraph