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Bus drivers describe 'mayhem' as Level 5 reduces public transport capacity

The NRBU has called for staggered school and work times to manage public transport demand.

Image: Sam Boal/Rollingnews

DUBLIN BUS DRIVERS have said it was “mayhem” this morning as the 25% capacity rule came into effect for public transport under the government’s Level 5 restrictions. 

The National Bus and Rail Union (NBRU) said its members experienced difficulties in trying to accommodate passengers across a number of bus routes which are operating primarily for the purposes of allowing those providing essential services to get to work. 

“There has already been several pinch points and locations where passengers have tried to gain access in large numbers to Dublin Bus services. Some drivers are describing it as ‘mayhem’, as excessive numbers of commuters try to board buses across a range of routes,” NBRU General Secretary Dermot O’Leary said. 

The National Transport Authority said it is engaging with the Department of Transport and the operators to identify particular pressure points with a view to responding to them and addressing them where possible.

“Issues arising from the reduction of capacity arose on some services this morning, particularly on buses in the Dublin area. We would continue to ask people to avoid travelling at peak times and only to use public transport for essential purposes,” an NTA spokesperson said. 

According to the NBRU, no confrontation or conflicts were reported this morning, “though we are extremely conscious that frustration can lead to such a scenario, we cannot blame passengers, striving as they are, to get to their place of work, at a time which suits their particular needs, as opposed to when services may, or can be scheduled”.

O’Leary said he has written to the CEO’s of Dublin Bus, Bus Éireann and Iarnród Éireann to ascertain their plans for additional services and how they propose to police capacity issues, as he says ”it is not the job of a bus driver to police public health guidelines”.

In two separate submissions to the Oireachtas Special Committee on Covid-19 Response, the NBRU called for the staggering of school, work and retail opening and closing times, to manage public transport demand.  

“It is neither fair nor sustainable that you would have those that operate the service (drivers) and those that use the service, in conflict with each other. 

“The Government needs to consider wider societal measures during Lockdown Two so as to manage public transport demand.”

Under current guidelines, public transport should only be used for essential reasons. It is currently operating with capacity restricted to 25% with the aim of transporting essential workers to work (it was at 50% under Level 3).

People are being asked to only travel within 5km of their home for exercise, with a possible threat of fines if these rules are breached. One can leave the 5km perimeter if it’s for essential reasons.

The Level 5 restrictions will be in place for six weeks, with a review due to be taken after four weeks. All going well, Level 5 restrictions will be lifted on 1 December, when we will likely return to Level 3 restrictions. 

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An Garda Síochana introduced a range of measures including a large number of checkpoints, high visibility community engagement patrols and ongoing support for the most vulnerable this morning to ensure compliance with public health guidelines and regulations under Level 5.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin said people should not fear being fined if they are travelling beyond the 5km limit if they have a reasonable excuse.

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Adam Daly

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