File photo of a Dublin Bus on O'Connell Street. Alamy Stock Photo
too many cars

'Too many cars' on our roads hampering public transport, Dublin Bus CEO to tell TDs

Billy Hann will also tell the Transport Committee about being “forced off the streets” by the riots in the city centre last week.

THERE ARE “TOO many cars” on our roads and Dublin needs to “go on a car diet”, the CEO of Dublin Bus will tell the Oireachtas Transport Committee on Wednesday.

Billy Hann will also discuss last Thursday’s riots in the city centre at the committee, stating that while the company has had to suspend services before, it has “never been forced off the streets” because of public order. 

“Our buses were burnt out. A driver was forcibly removed from his cab and intimidated.
We made the only decision we could make. Which was to protect the safety of
customers and employees,” Hann will tell the committee.

He will also thank An Garda Síochána and Dublin Fire Brigade for their assistance and work on the night. 

On the challenges being faced by Dublin Bus, Hann will say that congestion poses “a massive challenge” to all public transport operators.

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“Dublin is our capital city and Dublin simply will not work with buses stuck in traffic gridlock,” he will say, adding that there are “too many cars” in the city centre.

He will tell the committee that car ownership doubled between 1995 and 2015 in Ireland, with more than 2.2 million cars now on our roads.

“We need to move from a city of brakes lights to a city of buses, bikes and boulevards, just like some of our European peers such as Amsterdam and Paris,” he will say.

“We need to create more priority for public transport.”

He will state that there are not enough priority bus corridors in the city, and of the existing bus lanes, he will say that too many are not designated 24/7 and are often used by private vehicles.

“This is an easy fix and could be implemented very quickly. This would help simplify bus lane enforcement and improve journey times.”

He will say that he believes the plans set out in the Dublin City Council (DCC) and NTA Draft Transport Plan will “help make public transport a more attractive option for people”.

However, he will say that “we must be certain that some of the measures proposed do not have unintended consequences and ensure our public transport system can accommodate any displaced demand”.

“This will require careful planning and engagement between the NTA, DCC and all operators.”

Shortage of mechanics

The committee will also hear that Dublin Bus has recruited and trained 711 drivers since January 2022, but that the company’s recruitment campaign is now particularly focused on tackling “the extreme shortage of mechanics”, which is “an industry wide challenge facing all transport operators”.

Go-Ahead Ireland managing director Dervla McKay will tell the committee that the company remains in “a good position” in terms of recruiting new employees, with 578 drivers out on routes and 99 drivers in training in our driving school, an increase of 12% since July.

“We are confident that this trend will continue,” she will say. 

Anne Graham, the CEO of the National Transport Authority (NTA) will tell the committee that all public transport operators have taken steps to address the “critical shortage” of drivers in their companies. 

She will tell the committee that the NTA delayed the introduction of phases of the Bus Connects Network Redesign so that driver recruitment could recover.

“Thanks to the efforts of all operators, driver recruitment has increased and we have seen a much improved service delivery with the level of cancellations in Dublin city significantly reduced,” she will say.

She will also tell the committee of a “crisis” in the recruitment and retention of mechanics to service the bus fleet.

“Mechanic shortages has resulted in the cancellation of some services in Meath in recent weeks and is impacting other operators also,” the committee will hear.

Graham will say that the NTA is assured that “all operators are making every effort that they can to recruit and retain more mechanics in a tight and competitive employment market”. 

The committee will also hear that public transport across the country is carrying more passengers than ever this year, with Dublin’s bus services carrying 10% more passengers than in 2019, which was the previous record for passenger numbers.

Outside Dublin, passenger numbers have grown between 20% to 30% higher than 2019 pre-Covid figures, the committee will hear.

In September, Dublin City Council gave a presentation to councillors on proposed changes to overhaul road use in Dublin city centre.

Key parts of the proposals include diverting traffic away from parts of the quays and dedicating more space to bus and cycle lanes.

The draft plan devised by transport officials is aimed at reducing traffic congestion caused by through-traffic and improving access to public transport, as well as facilitating more walking and cycling in the city centre.

At the meeting, several councillors welcomed the proposals, while others expressed concerns about how the plan would impact businesses and whether it would simply push traffic congestion onto other streets rather than reducing it overall.

public consultation on the major redesign is open until 1 December for members of the public to offer input into the Dublin City Centre Transport Plan.

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