Minister for Transport Shane Ross is to host a round-table discussion on public transport policy next month, which will include the issue of a sustainable funding model. 

For some years, unions have been demanding what they call a "stakeholder forum" to address issues of relevance to the sector.

However, Mr Ross had refused to convene any such forum while recent industrial disputes and strikes in the sector were ongoing.

It is understood the event scheduled for 21 May will involve representatives of consumers/passengers, unions and public transport operators - both public and private sector.

It will also encompass policy-makers, business and environmental groups, research institutes, regulators and the academic community.

The department said the event would allow for an "exchange of views" among interested players and commentators, feed into its current work review of public transport policy in line with a commitment in the Programme for Government.

Mr Ross said he looked forward to a "robust and genuine exchange of views" at the round table forum on issues including meeting diverse passenger needs, alleviating traffic congestion, achieving sustainable public funding support and tackling climate challenges. 

The National Bus and Rail Union welcomed the Minister’s commitment to establish a stakeholder's Transport Forum.

General Secretary Dermot O'Leary said the union had campaigned for such a forum for years, and noted that such engagement had twice been endorsed by the Labour Court.

He said it was vital that all stakeholders have a voice in relation to the policy, funding, planning and all matters associated with public transport provision.

He said the recent "debacle" around the cross-city Luas and the debate around the College Green plaza has demonstrated quite clearly that civil servants in the department and the NTA did not have exclusivity over the necessary expertise on how transport provision is planned.

He said he welcomed the presence of private sector transport providers, noting that many were supporting Bus Éireann services.

Mr O'Leary said that many indigenous coach operators had had a "raw deal" because they could not meet the criteria for NTA tenders for routes.

He said there was also a concern among Dublin Bus and Bus Éireann workers that the recent "assault" on the state-owned bus routes (through the awarding of tenders to private sector companies) would be replicated in the future.

He said he wanted to remind Mr Ross that unions had received a commitment from the National Transport Authority back in 2015, following a two day dispute, that putting 10% of Bus Routes out to private tender would be sufficient, and no further routes would be privatised.

SIPTU has also welcomed the round-table discussion on public transport policy.

In a statement, SIPTU Divisional Organiser Gregg Ennis said that "a lot of serious issues have arisen and are ongoing in Irish Public Transport since the Trade Unions met with Minister Ross last July, wherein he promised that the Transport Forum would be convened in either September or October of 2017.

"Most notably the recent Irish Rail strike, funding issues and the ongoing CIE Pension debacle, which has now reached an extremely serious impasse.

"SIPTU on behalf of its 5,000 members in CIE will be attendance on May 21st so as to set out its views on Public Transport and the issues of concern that exist today and have existed for some time within the Sector".