Minister disputes Patton Flyer claims

Comments in Dail by Transport Minister claim operator applied for licence in 2007, not 2006

Patton Flyer links Dalkey to Dublin Airport

Patton Flyer links Dalkey to Dublin Airport

Further interesting information has emerged in the long-running saga of the Patton Flyer coach service in Dublin, which the Department of Transport says is being run without a licence.

The service, which links Dalkey and Blackrock to Dublin Airport via the Eastlink and the Port Tunnel runs hourly and is seen to be carrying healthy loadings. DoT officials say they reported the operator to the Gardai in August 2007 for operating without a licence, though what action has been taken as a result is unclear.

Back in March, we reported on claims that a very long delay in dealing with a licence application had forced the coach company to start the service without a licence. According to the operator, they had submitted an application in 2006, without reply.

Now recent comments on the record of the Dail (Irish parliment) by Transport Minister Noel Dempsey seem to dispute this version of events, as according to the Minister the operator only applied for the licence in early 2007.

Below is the full text of the minister’s Dail response when questioned.

Apart from the date of the application, this answer is interesting in that it confirms that the reason for the licence not being granted is, as long suspected, the prior application for a licence by Aircoach, whose Greystone to Dublin Airport service only meets the Patton Flyer along part of the route.

 23. Deputy Seán Barrett asked the Minister for Transport  if he will grant a licence to a bus service (details supplied) to operate a scheduled bus service between Dalkey and intermediary points such as Glasthule, Dún Laoghaire and Monkstown with Dublin Airport which are not served by an alternative bus operator; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32450/08]

Minister for Transport (Deputy Noel Dempsey): My Department received an application on the 20 February 2007 from the operator to whom the Deputy refers, for a licence to operate bus passenger services between Dalkey and Dublin Airport. At that time, my Department had on hands a prior application for bus services on a similar route, and in accordance with administrative procedures, applications were dealt with in date order. That prior application was finalised in December 2007 and a licence has issued to that operator for the provision of bus passenger services between Greystones and Dublin Airport.

In the case of the service referred to by the Deputy, on the 16 July 2007 my Department was made aware that the operator concerned had commenced the operation of an unlicensed bus passenger service between Dalkey and Dublin Airport. My Department immediately contacted that company and advised that failure to cease the operation of the service in respect of which a licence had not been issued under the Road Transport Act 1932, is an offence under section 7 of that Act. It is also a prerequisite before the making of an offer of a licence that in accordance with road traffic and safety legislation the applicant provides my Department with Garda approvals for all proposed bus stops along the route and holds a Road Passenger transport Operations Licence.

While there is a strong passenger demand for a service between Dalkey and Dublin Airport, my Department would only be prepared to make an offer of a licence to Patton Flyer if that company demonstrates that it would be prepared to operate in conformity with the law.

Patton Flyer expansion to challenge DOT

A pioneering independent bus service challenging the 1932 Act is a thorn in the side of the Department of Transport, but the operator says they only have themselves to blame.

20071001-patton.jpg

Fascinating article in the Irish Times today about plans by the operator of the unlicenced Patton Flyer bus service to expand with further routes. (paid registration required to view)

The service which has been running since last summer is, according to the Department of Transport, illegal, and they have referred its operation to the Gardai, though no action seems to have been taken yet.

Now the operator has announced plans to expand with a further 4 routes being designed, which could turn this minor irritation into a head-on challenge to the current licencing regime.

However Trevor Patton says that his company has attempted to comply with all relevant legislation, and has had a licence application for the original Dalkey service with the department since 2006.

From the Irish Times article:

Referring to the Dalkey route, Mr Patton said: “If there was a good reason why there should not be public transport on that route, then the Department of Transport should have been able to determine that reason in almost two years since the licence application was made.”

With publication of the Dublin Transportation Bill promised in December, January, February, before easter, and now “next month” the chances of the root cause of the issue being resolved any time soon are slim.

Minister Dempsey also promises reform of the bus licencing system, but can’t say when it will happen, telling the Dail recently that While it is not possible at this time to indicate a precise time as to when the legislative proposals on regulatory reform of the bus market will be published, applications for new bus licences and notifications from State bus operators will continue to be processed under the provisions of the Road Transport Act 1932, as amended, and the notification system with reference to the Transport Act 1958, as appropriate.”

Which would fine, if the licences were processed in a timely manner.

But again, like the case of the Swords Express and the Dublin Bus 41X licence application, the Department seems unable to make licence decisions in any kind of a reasonable timeframe.

And the losers, as always, are the passengers.