Bus Éireann has announced that it will be cutting Expressway services between Dublin and three other cities from early next year.

The services between the capital and Galway, Limerick and Cork will end when the emergency supports for the routes expire which is expected to happen early next year.

The board of Bus Éireann has said it took the decision to end these commercial services, which it says are losing money, in order to protect the core Public Service Obligation routes.

Bus Éireann informed its staff that it expects to make losses of up to €20 million over the next three years.

It said the decision to cut the Expressway services will not result in the loss of any jobs as drivers are needed for other routes.

The company also said that the X51 Express Route from Galway to Limerick which has been suspended since March is being formally ended and will not be returning.

Non-express services between the two cities are continuing.

The CEO of Bus Éireann, Stephen Kent, said the company cannot continue to run losses and it had to find a way to mitigate the situation.

Speaking on RTÉ's Six One news, he said the decision will come at a cost to some communities, however the company is trying to safeguard two hundred other communities within the Expressway network.

He said Bus Éireann is trying to make a positive step for customers in the long-term, and for the company's staff.

Mr Kent next year will be "very challenging" and it will be 2022 before some of the routes recover. 

Union 'disappointed but not 'surprised'

The General Secretary of the NBRU said he was disappointed but not surprised by the decision by Bus Éireann and urged politicians to "step up to the plate and protect the services".

Dermot O'Leary told RTÉ's Drivetime that he did not agree with the company that this decision is Covid-19 related and was concerned that workers would be re-deployed.

He said Bus Éireann was the only bus company operating during the pandemic on the routes that are being "culled".

He said: "Without Bus Éireann during the Covid crisis, there would have been no bus service, essential workers could not have gone into hospitals, doctor's surgeries, pharmacies." 

He added, "Bus Éireann was the last man standing" and all the companies that the licences were issued to by the NTA, they all disappeared during the Covid-19 crisis, because there was "no market there for them to make their profits". 

Mr O'Leary said there are lots of bus routes in this country that are operating and will be operating over the coming months through the pandemic and did not "take that as a reason why this is happening".

He called for "politicians from all parties and none to step up to the plate and protect those services".

He said the "corridors being affected, by this decision, have been well-saturated with licences by the NTA for a number of years".

Mr O’Leary added putting in substitute services is "not good enough".

SIPTU Sector Organiser, John Murphy, described the decision by Bus Éireann as "short sighted, flawed and a kick in the teeth for workers and passengers".

"While Bus Éireann has assured SIPTU representatives that this decision will not impact negatively on the job security of our members it will, if left unchallenged, severely disrupt passengers and connectivity. 

"Our members are calling for an immediate intervention by the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Eamon Ryan, to reverse this decision."