Bus Éireann has won the National Transport Authority tender to operate five Waterford city bus routes where it is already running the services.

The routes were put out to tender as part of an initiative to open the market to private operators and reduce the virtual monopoly previously held by Bus Éireann.

NTA Chief Executive Anne Graham said that Bus Éireann had outperformed four private sector bidders, in a competition where 650 points were allocated for price factors, and 350 points for technical and quality criteria.

The contract will run for five years, with an option to extend for a further two years.

The NTA will issue a letter of intent to Bus Éireann today and the company will have nine months to implement the enhanced services.

The authority will be providing 17 state-of-the-art buses with lower carbon emissions, WiFi and other facilities  to operate the routes.

The unsuccessful underbidders were Transdev, the Go Ahead group, Urbus, and Matthews Coach Hire.

Speaking on RTE's Drivetime, Ms Graham said Bus Éireann was not the cheapest operator to tender for the  routes, but she said it scored highest in the overall assessment.

She said the people of Waterford will be the first to travel in a low-carbon emission fleet.

Ms Graham added that the operators had to provide bus depots as part of their tender, but she said this did not mean that Bus Éireann had an advantage.

She cited the example of Go Ahead winning the tender in Dublin, where Dublin Bus was the incumbent provider with depots in place.

Bus Éireann described the outcome as a very proud achievement for the company and its staff.

It acknowledged that the company has had a very challenging year in terms of undertaking essential structural and competitive reform, and said the decision was a vote of confidence in the company, its workforce and its dedication to delivering high standards of service to all customers.

Acting Chief Executive Ray Hernan described the announcement as an important win that endorsed the company.

National Bus and Rail Union General Secretary Dermot O'Leary welcomed the outcome, but warned against any false sense of security, given that further tenders in the Kildare/Newbridge corridor are imminent.

SIPTU Sector Organiser Willie Noone also welcomed the announcement and reiterated a call for a forum to be established to address issues in public transport that affect workers.

The body representing private bus operators has said the award of the Waterford tender to Bus Éireann was a missed opportunity.

Kevin Traynor of the Coach Tourism and Transport Council said private operators had been pioneers in extending services and he said local companies would have better local knowledge.

However, Mr Traynor added that that the tender process was a step in the right direction, which he said introduced competition into the marketplace.