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'Strong growth' for public transport sector as passenger numbers increased 9% last year

Passenger figures across the rail, bus and tram network in Ireland increase last year.

THERE HAS BEEN a 9% increase in the number of passenger journeys taken on public transport in the past 12 months, according to the latest figures from the National Transport Authority. 

Some 290 million passenger journeys were recorded on Dublin Bus, Bus Éireann, Iarnróid Éireann, Luas and Go-Ahead Ireland services in 2019 – an increase of 24 million journeys compared to 2018. 

The figures represent seven years of increasing passenger numbers, with the percentage increase in 2019 by far the largest since the inception of the National Transport Authority (NTA).

The NTA said the latest increase was a reflection on the increased investment in public transport in recent years. 

Bus Éireann, which restructured and removed some routes over the past decade, in a bid to return to profit, saw an increase of 14% last year. The company attracted 40.4 million passengers in 2019.

City services for the company rose by 14% overall, jumping to a 30% increase on services in Waterford City.

Passenger numbers on bus services in the Dublin metropolitan area increased by 7.5% in 2019.

Public Service Obligation services in the Dublin area are provided by Dublin Bus, and by Go-Ahead Ireland, and combined numbers across both companies have gone from 141 million in 2018 to 151 million last year.

Dublin Bus, which has been undergoing a review in the form of the BusConnect upgrade, provided 138 million passenger journeys last year. 

It also introduced the first 24 hour routes in the city, carrying tourists from Dublin Airport to the city centre around the clock. 

014 DART Peaktime (1)


Dart, Commuter, and Inter city services at Iarnróid Éireann have all increased in the past 12 months. 

In 2019, overall passenger numbers reached 50 million for the first time in company’s history, representing an increase of 4.3% on the previous year.

The rail network has been subject to criticism over the levels of anti-social behavior on the lines in recent months. It also faced a public backlash after asking commuters to take earlier trains to avoid overcrowding on carriages during peak times. 

The NTA said Iarnróid Éireann has seen increased demand across the network and that rail capacity will increase in the coming years. 

Some 41 new railcars for commuter routes are set to arrive from late 2021 while the purchase of 600 new electric carriages is currently out to tender, and a contract is expected to be awarded this year.

0186 Dublin scenes (1) Leah Farrell Leah Farrell


The Luas has also been at the centre of criticism in 2019 but continued to see an increase in the number of passengers using the service. 

A number of complaints were submitted to Transport Infrastructure Ireland over the actions of Luas security staff, while complaints were also submitted over the level of anti-social behavior. 

In spite of this, passenger journeys rose by 15% to over 48 million in 2019. The NTA pointed to the increase as a knock-on effect of the first full-year benefit of the capacity enhancement of the Green Line, which involved a total of seven new 55m trams being brought into service in 2018.

Speaking of the increases across the public service network last year, CEO of the NTA, Anne Graham said the figures reflect the “quality of services” provided by operators. 

“There is no doubt that when there is a reliable, high quality, value-for-money public transport offering that customers will respond positively to it,” she said. 

“But people are also looking to the future of the planet, and they know that by choosing to use public transport, they are behaving in a way that will reduce emissions, improve air quality and protect their local environment.

“None of us can rest on our laurels, and the priority now must be to deliver on those improvements in our public transport infrastructure that are provided for under the Climate Action Plan and Project Ireland 2040.”

She added: “ That is why it is so important for the NTA to continue to invest in projects such as MetroLink and BusConnect that will provide a better public transport offering into the future.”

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