Minister for Transport Shane Ross is expected to strongly reject suggestions that he has not done enough to enable a settlement in the Bus Éireann dispute when he appears before the Oireachtas Transport Committee.

In his presentation, he will also describe claims that the Bus Éireann dispute stems from a Department of Transport policy failure as "false".

Mr Ross will express deep concern at the potential effect of Monday's proposed strike, especially in rural areas, but will call for great care by all parties at what he calls this very delicate time in a potentially serious industrial relations dispute. 

However, he will tell the committee that for him to intervene directly in the internal matters of Bus Éireann would constitute unnecessary and unhelpful external interference - as well as cutting across the role of the company and trade unions in agreeing work practices, terms and conditions.

The minister is expected to highlight recent increases in State subvention for Bus Éireann's Public Service Obligation services, but will stress that under law, subvention cannot be provided for commercial services like Expressway, which is the loss-making element of the company.

He will defend the Public Transport Regulation Act 2009, saying it has led to more people using public transport.

However, he will say that does not mean he was unwilling to review the effectiveness of the existing legislation with a view to strengthening it to further promote the interests of passengers. 

The minister will also confirm that he and Minister for Social Protection Leo Varadkar have instructed their departments to examine the funding levels for the Free Travel Scheme, which currently only pays around 40% of the cost of a journey.

He will describe that examination as a brief, focused piece of work that is progressing well, adding that he expects the issues will be resolved "satisfactorily".

Mr Ross will also seek to reassure rural communities that the National Transport Authority will step in where connectivity is threatened, noting that the NTA has already moved to replace a service on the Athlone-Westport route which is being cancelled by Bus Éireann.

This afternoon, NTA chief executive Anne Graham told RTÉ's News At One that when Bus Éireann withdraws its commercial service, Route 21, changes will be made to another subsidised Bus Éireann service, the 440 route, to double the number of buses to four each day in each direction.

This would be a marked increase in bus services for the towns in this area, she said.

Ms Graham said most of the changes proposed by Bus Éireann will not impact too much on customers. 
She said the NTA has a public service obligation to provide services following the withdrawal of routes, but in many cases the services on offer by private operators or mainline Bus Éireann routes will be sufficient to meet the connectivity needed. 

Mr Ross is also expected to reject any suggestion that he as transport minister, or his Government colleagues, are seeking a very low-cost employment model for Bus Éireann.