Bus Éireann has declared a financial recovery after recording a profit before exceptional costs of €1.6m for 2018. That compares to a loss of €6.8m in 2017. 

After costs, the bus company had a €6.4m loss last year - compared to a loss of €23.7m in 2017.

The latest results mark a significant turnaround for the State business, which only two years ago looked to be on the brink of insolvency. 

"There's been a radical change over the last two years for a lot of the staff," said Stephen Kent, CEO Bus Éireann. "We've been very reliant on the stakeholders and our customers."

He said there had been a huge transformation programme undertaken, which has seen savings of €20m last year. That included a "radical restructuring" of the business and changes to work practices.

The company has also seen revenues rise, as its service expanded and customers numbers recovered. In 2018 Bus Éireann carried 83.6 million passengers last year - which it says was its highest in a decade.

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"Passenger numbers have come back, and they've rebounded across all of our services in towns and regional cities," Mr Kent said. "We're delighted that in the cities we've seen 13% growth in passenger numbers - that has been very significant in helping the turnaround in the past year." 

Alongside its results Bus Éireann today also detailed plans for a €35m investment, supported by the National Transport Authority, which will see 102 new buses introduced to its fleet this year. 

However there any some headwinds for the business too - including a recent Labour Court recommendation that would see staff pay rise by 7.75% over the next three years. Mr Kent said this was in recognition of the fact that most workers had not seen pay increase since 2008, and it was something that the business could manage. 

"It's not necessarily a pay increase on its own - it goes hand in hand with productivity improvement," he said. "Everything that we bring in now has to have a cost measure that we know will be self-funding. That is a critical component and a different measure that we've got to sign ourselves up to in the year ahead.

"You can never give up on costs. Our business ultimately is changing, we're going to have to compete for new business in the future, the bus market is opening up and subject to tender so you must remain competitive," the CEO said.

The National Transport Authority is currently planning to put some of Bus Éireann's Dublin routes out to tender from 2021, though Bus Éireann is hoping to be able to retain those routes through its own bid. 

Bus Éireann's accounts also show an effective rise in 'key management compensation' - once termination costs are excluded - though Mr Kent said this was due to a necessary expansion in the company's senior roles. "We've put new positions, particularly in the key management teams and the management of the operation," he said. "We've had to bring in a chief customer office, we needed a chief people officer, we've brought in people to run our schools operations," he explained. 

"As part of the restructuring we've obviously had to build back in capability, new competencies, and new leadership so we can bring about a new vision and drive the business forward," he added.