Bus Éireann was projecting €20m in losses over the next three years if the now-axed Expressway routes from Dublin to Cork, Limerick and Galway were continued.
The loss of thousands of students and airport passengers in recent months, as well as capacity restrictions on buses, are among the reasons for the stark projections.
Despite the axing of the routes, Transport Minister Eamon Ryan claimed that “no town will be left behind” and that if any gaps are identified following the decision of Bus Éireann to shut down four of its 18 routes, then the National Transport Authority (NTA) will make sure such gaps are closed.
Speaking on Newstalk, he said that he would prefer if Bus Éireann began looking at its services on other routes.
On RTÉ’S Morning Ireland, he claimed there was no lack of financial support from the government for Bus Éireann.
“There wasn’t any lack of financial support hindering what the company could do, but I did think that we have to let them actually put the resources to where they think they’re best used.”
Some €460m was needed to see out public transport until the end of the year, he said.
“It is an exceptional year. €300m is the ordinary subsidy each year to public transport. This year, an additional €460m will go in and, as I said, there will be no shortage during the Covid crisis of similar support next year to maintain our public service, we need to do that,” he added.
Bus Éireann blamed the fallout from Covid-19 for its decision to axe the routes, adding that it would be beefing up its inner-city services in the likes of Cork and Galway.
Unions blamed the decision of the NTA to award private operators contracts to operate routes like Cork to Dublin which, they said, had diluted Bus Éireann’s service.
Users of the Expressway service have expressed their opinions that other operators are at an advantage with their non-stop journeys, and that those who travel city to city must contend with regular stops and passengers embarking and disembarking, thereby slowing the journey considerably.
Bus Éireann chief executive Stephen Kent said the firm was “taking a decision to withdraw from a small number of Expressway routes which would otherwise incur unsustainable losses and thereby avoid job losses in a very difficult trading environment”.
The Department of Transport said that the NTA will consider whether some segments of the affected routes will require intervention to ensure adequate levels of connectivity continue.
This will be done prior to these services ceasing operation, it added. The routes are set to stop early in 2021.
“The Government is committed to ensuring that essential transport services continue to be protected and supported. Services that provide vital regional and rural connections will continue to operate,” the department said.
Cork North Central TD, Mick Barry, slammed Bus Éireann over the move, claiming it was "walking off the pitch".