Updated: 11/01/17 : 06:08:54
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Sligo faces loss of Expressway bus service

Bus Éireann has been told to axe its Expressway service completely.

This advice was given in a confidential report on the financially troubled transport company by external consultants.

A total of 516 staff could lose their jobs if Expressway, which is the commercial arm of the State-owned Bus Éireann, was shut down while up to 10 existing depots, including Sligo, would face closure.

The Grant Thornton assessment said jettisoning Expressway - which links major towns and cities in Ireland - would be "the most viable option".

The report added that the company was a strong performer within the CIÉ Group until 2008 and had been largely loss-making since then. This was mainly due to the issuing of commercial bus licences to private operators on its most lucrative routes. Expressway has struggled to compete with new market entrants with lower cost bases.

The report also warns that severance payments for staff could be costly if the company got out of the Expressway operation altogether. These could range from €36.6 million to more than €85 million depending on the terms on offer.

The consultants warn that Bus Éireann would face insolvency within two years if nothing is done to address losses.

The report suggests the company could examine a more “incremental” approach to restructuring Expressway than envisaged by management. It suggests new moves to try generate more money from public service routes, school bus transport and from the Department of Social Protection for passengers entitled to free travel.

“However if it becomes apparent that it is not possible to return the company and more particularly the commercial business to a sound commercial and financial footing, then we believe that exiting Expressway is the only viable option,” Grant Thornton advises.