Transition to Competitive Tendering in Ireland
Currently, subsidised bus services in the Irish Republic are provided by the two state-owned operators, Dublin Bus and Bus Éireann, under EU-approved arrangements which allow the state to directly award contracts to those operators without competition.
The National Transport Authority (NTA) recognised that while this arrangement provided considerable certainty and continuity for service users, it may not deliver best value for money or encourage innovation and it limits the ability of the NTA to influence service provision. In addition, there was increasing pressure from the European Union to move away from directly-awarded contracts to a competitively tendered model, giving private sector operators a greater role within service delivery.
The NTA appointed SYSTRA to provide them with advice about future arrangements and to assist them with the process of transition, including the initial piloting of new arrangements.
SYSTRA undertook a worldwide research exercise to identify alternative approaches to the direct award of service contracts and presented our findings to the senior management team in a series of workshops.
This process enabled us to form a deeper understanding of the client’s requirements, capabilities and appetite for risk and to agree a basis for future tendering. We assisted the NTA in drafting key contract documentation covering everything from vehicle leases to quality control. As well as providing templates for future competitive tendering exercises, the contract documents were used to strengthen the contractual arrangements with Dublin Bus and Bus Éireann when their directly-awarded contracts were renewed in 2014.
We assisted the NTA with a pilot exercise to competitively tender services which Bus Éireann was abandoning, successfully introducing a private-sector contractor for the first time. We then provided advice to NTA during the larger pilot exercise for three packages of bus services covering over 130 buses in Dublin and Waterford.