The head of the National Transport Authority is to tell an Oireachtas committee that her organisation has been “significantly under-resourced” since its formation.
Anne Graham, the NTA’s chief executive, is set to tell the Public Accounts Committee on Thursday that its staffing complement in particular has to date been “below what we require in order to effectively undertake our statutory and non-statutory functions”.
The NTA had income of just under €1.1 billion in 2020, up from €661m in 2019, the majority of which stemmed from Government grants.
However, the authority’s expenditure was just €2.5m shy of its income, mostly as a result of increased Public Service Obligation payments from the Government made on foot of passenger numbers falling dramatically due to Covid-19.
PSO subsidies are the system by which public transport services - such as rural routes which would not otherwise be financially viable - are maintained.
Ms Graham will tell the committee that despite its perceived under-resourcing the NTA has filled “a significant number of key posts in 2020 and 2021” which she will say “has assisted greatly in building our capacity to deliver our mandate”.
The authority has increased its headcount by 119 up to 233 staff at the end of 2021, she will say.
The NTA's PAC appearance is the first of two in seven days which will see the accounts of the country’s transport agencies, the other being TII (Transport Infrastructure Ireland), analysed at committee.
The provision of the next generation of transport services, which is partly NTA’s remit, is likely to be a key focus of PAC after reports late last year that key infrastructure projects, notably the Metrolink Dublin Airport connection, will not now be delivered before 2030.
BusConnects Dublin, the largest overhaul of the capital’s bus services in a generation budgeted at €2 billion, has seen expenditure of €149.1m to date, the committee will hear - split between route design and fleet investment.
The project is currently awaiting a Government decision on its preliminary business case, the NTA said, which, if granted, will see planning applications made for the system’s 16 core bus corridors.
Ms Graham is set to tell the committee that following “a very successful year in 2019” in terms of public transport usage the impact of Covid-19 was “dramatic”, with a 50% fall-off in passenger numbers year on year.
She will say that Government financial support for public transport services provided by private operators has now been extended until the end of March 2022.