The representative body for private bus and coach operators, the Coach Tourism & Transport Council (CTTC), has said that its members are disappointed that the Government did not engage with the sector before imposing mandatory obligations on passengers to wear facemasks on buses. Failure to engage the sector has left it in a legal lacunae.
Under the new rules introduced on Monday 13 July, Gardaí can be called to enforce if someone fails to wear a face covering on public transport. If they continue not to co-operate, they can face arrest and prosecution, with a penalty for a conviction of up to €2,500 fine and/or six months in jail.
The CTTC is Ireland’s largest representative body for coach touring companies, and private bus operators. Its members are leading providers of private scheduled services, international tours, school transport and private hire. In total there are 1,721 coach operators in Ireland, carrying over 75 million passengers per year, supporting 11,457 jobs and contributing €400 million to the economy.
Speaking on the issue, Chairman of the CTTC, John Halpenny said: “We are most disappointed with the lack of consultation with our sector on mandating facemasks on public transport. Collectively, private bus and coach operators carry 70 million passengers every year, right across the country, through our scheduled services, coach tourism, school transport and private hire so to ensure public health compliance, having our sector at the table for decisions such as this would be important. Instead, we have no clarity regarding our legal obligations or our potential exposure but instead are appraised of the changes through the media. Operating in such a legal lacunae has very real and obvious consequences going by the needless death of a bus driver who was involved in a serious confrontation with passengers over their failure to wear facemasks in France in the past few days. If the CTTC had been engaged in the decision-making process, all anomalies could have been dealt with and we would have full clarity over the situation.”
“With Ireland starting to open up and holidays are back on the agenda, the Government needs to issue crystal clear messaging and safety advice around getting people back on buses. While our sector has been decimated over the past number of months, many of our members still hold out hope that they can salvage something from 2020 and get back on the road. However, much of this depends on positive Government action. While some State support which has been committed to, unfortunately, delivery is moving at a glacial speed.”
“Ongoing and meaningful engagement with our sector is crucial in order to ensure a robust, sustainable, interconnected transport offering in the aftermath of this public health crisis,” John concluded.