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File photo Sam Boal/

Public transport services to be reduced from next week

Visits to prisons will end from tomorrow, the government has also announced.

LAST UPDATE | 27 Mar 2020

BUS AND TRAIN services will operate on reduced schedules, varying from 45% to 80% of normal capacity, from next week.

The announcement was made by the government today as it continues to respond to the coronavirus pandemic.

Revised timetables for Iarnród Éireann (Irish Rail) will come into effect on Monday, 30 March.

Revised timetables for Dublin Bus, Go Ahead Ireland and Bus Éireann will come into effect from Wednesday, 1 April.

The National Transport Authority (NTA) said that bus services will run at 80% of current levels, while Iarnród Éireann inter-city services will be running at 45% to 65% of normal levels.

Commuter services in Dublin will drop to the same level, with the Dart operating every 15 minutes at peak time and every 30 minutes for the rest of the day. 

Speaking at a press briefing this morning, Deputy Assistant Secretary General at the Department of Taoiseach, Elizabeth Canavan, said public transport is important to ensure employees can get to work, but that changes are needed “in response to social distancing requirements and the level of service demand”.

“Under the revised timetables, services will run at approximately 80% of current levels. While passenger numbers on public transport services are down, there are some services that will continue to have heavier loading and this could potentially lead to issues with social distancing requirements,” Canavan said.

She added that as some fleet and drivers have been freed up under the new schedules, “additional vehicles will be provided for services where there is a greater demand, which will address those physical distancing concerns”.

The Luas is not impacted by the announcement and will still run as normal. 

Siptu Transport Sector Organiser, John Murphy, has called for an immediate reduction of passenger numbers on public transport services in order to protect passengers and staff from the Covid-19.

He also called on the NTA to reverse its decision to reduce public transport services from next week in order to prevent overcrowding and a breach of social distancing requirements.

In a letter sent to the Minister for Transport Shane Ross and the NTA today, Murphy expressed the concern of Siptu members at the decision to reduce public transport services.

“While we recognise that passenger numbers have dropped significantly due to the Covid-19 emergency, our members are concerned that packing more people into fewer transport vehicles will increase the risk of exposure to the Covid-19 virus for passengers and staff, particularly at peak travel times.

“It is vital that healthcare and other workers at the frontline of fighting the coronavirus are transported to work and we have to ensure that, along with all passengers and staff, they can travel in the safest possible conditions,” Murphy said.

“I’d like to thank all those who are providing these essential services so that people who rely on public transport, working in hospitals, pharmacies, the grocery sector, and other vital areas, can continue to get to where they are needed to the benefit of us all,” Ross said in a statement this afternoon.

Prison visits

Canavan also announced that prison visits will stop from tomorrow and be replaced by electronic visits.

Canavan said “effective infection control and vigilance is absolutely essential” in prisons given the volume of people who enter and exit them every day.

“Prisons are home or the place of work of over 7,000 people and the Irish Prison Service has taken a number of necessary measures aimed at preventing the spread of Covid-19 including the restriction of visits to prisoners.

“The Irish Prison Service has made every effort to continue to run normal family visits for as long as possible, however, in the best interests in the health and safety of prison staff, prisoners and their families, from tomorrow normal physical visits will no longer be possible.

“Physical visits will be replaced by electronic visits via internet platforms, video links and video phones,” she stated.

In relation to court orders, Canavan noted that the President of the District Court has issued a statement saying domestic violence applications will continue to be given priority as well as the provision of information in relation to family law matters such as access, maintenance and guardianship.

Supply chains and citizens abroad

Canavan said it is a priority for the government to ensure supply chains remain up and running.

“The government’s priority in the weeks to come is to ensure that supply chains remain operational and that essential retail can remain open so that people can purchase the essential supplies that they need.”

Canavan said grocery retailers are implementing social distancing guidelines and urged the public to be mindful of this.

“We do need the public to support them in what they’re doing locally in the shops so please bear that in mind if you are visiting your local supermarket.” she said.

Canavan reiterated that nearly all Covid-19 unemployment benefit claims received up to close of business yesterday will be paid by next Tuesday.

The Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection said it has experienced unprecedented demand for income supports since 13 March, equivalent to 10 months of normal claims in just 10 working days.

The Student Universal Support Ireland (Susi) will begin accepting grant applications for the 2020-2021 academic year from 23 April, Canavan said, adding that it was not possible to bring this date forward as planned before the pandemic.

Canavan said more than 2,000 Irish citizens are trying to get home from abroad. She said the Department of Foreign Affairs is working around the clock in order to help them, noting that the Peruvian government has given Ireland the green light to fly over 130 Irish citizens out of Peru in the next few days.

She said citizens who are not in Peru should not attempt to get there before the flight due to the travel restrictions in place. She added that Irish people abroad who need help with transport should contact their nearest embassy or consulate.

Last night the Dáil passed emergency legislation that deals with issues such as a nationwide rent freeze, a ban on evictions, measures to allow the re-enlistment of former members to the Defence Forces, as well as retired health workers to be re-hired.

A further 10 deaths from Covid-19, bringing the death toll here to 19, and 255 new cases in the Republic of Ireland, bringing the total number of cases to 1,819, were confirmed last night.

With reporting from Dominic McGrath

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