Transport services across Kerry are being threatened by the operations of state sponsored companies, amid concerns that private transport suppliers will soon be out of business. That’s according to a joint statement from Michael Healy Rae, TD and his brother, Cllr. Danny.
“Local transport operators providing school collections and connectivity services to communities across Kerry may soon face extinction as the tendering of the Kerry Flyer allows the state-sponsored service to acquire transport contracts from hard-working operators at a far lower cost.
“Many of these local transport providers have been operational in their communities for a number of decades and are concerned that the bus and taxi services that they offer will cease to exist within twelve months. Parents of school children availing of the services provided by local operators are concerned that the disruption to the transport routine, with the removal of the personal, comfortable nature of private operators, will be damaging to vulnerable children and commuters with learning difficulties,” they said.
“Now, I have always been very supportive of the service provided by the Kerry Flyer and I’m on record in that regard. But I’m also listening to private transport operators and their staff members who are despairing about the future of their businesses and of their jobs.
They’re all pointing to the government subsidies as the source of their difficulties – and there are real difficulties in many parts of rural Kerry and Ireland as a whole,” said Deputy Healy Rae.
Kerry Flyer, won a Kerry Community Award for its services to the area in 2010.
The Kerry Flyer receives Community Services Programme (CSP) funding to enable it to deliver local services to the communities it services. The programme is funded by the Department of Social Protection under the Social Inclusion chapter of the National Development Plan 2007-2016.
Knowledge of Area
The Healy Rae brothers contend that the tender process essentially ignores the outstanding knowledge of the area and customer service provided by local operators, with the criteria for tender focusing on the size of the vehicle and the cost of transport.
“The state support for the Kerry Flyer allows the company to undercut private operators, despite many workers dramatically dropping costs in order to continue providing their service, often to their financial detriment,” they claim.
“The major concern for private transporters is that the state is tendering public services in order to secure a monopoly in the transport industry. Without the support of government finances, local operators are simply unable to compete. Long-term operators were dealt a further slap in the face as many of those who lost their contracts were informed only by a generic email,” the statement continues.
Deputy Michael Healy Rae
Michael Healy-Rae has condemned the actions of the government and branded such a one-sided stance as disgraceful. The Kerry representative argued that the overwhelming explicit support for certain companies directly undermines the principles of competition and local enterprise at the heart of many local communities, whilst pledging to campaign for greater protection for privately managed companies.
Cllr. Danny Healy Rae
Cllr Danny Healy-Rae further expressed his deep regret that Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Paschal Donohoe could allow such a system to be in place and called for an immediate, urgent review of the practice to help secure a more equal playing field in the transport market. Healy-Rae demanded that the tender process be examined in order to offer fairer terms to long-serving operators who provide an unrivalled knowledge of the area and their customers.
“Publicly managed companies are able to provide services for a far lower cost at a smaller risk to the business due to the protection offered by the government. Stakeholders for local transporters have called for fairer treatment from industry agencies and questioned a state stance which damages the very companies with were intrinsic to the survival and revitalisation of many rural communities across Ireland,” they concluded.
A spokesperson for Kerry Flyer would not comment on the statement other than saying: “The situation is ongoing.”