We need your help now

Support from readers like you keeps The Journal open.

You are visiting us because we have something you value. Independent, unbiased news that tells the truth. Advertising revenue goes some way to support our mission, but this year it has not been enough.

If you've seen value in our reporting, please contribute what you can, so we can continue to produce accurate and meaningful journalism. For everyone who needs it.

up to speed

From active travel to the Western Railway Corridor: An A-Z(ish) of public transport in Ireland

Here’s your glossary of public transport terms to keep you up to speed.

BETWEEN PROJECTS, STATE agencies and technical lingo, there’s plenty of terminology around public transport that’s not always immediately clear.

This month, we’re taking a deep dive into public transport as part of The Good Information Project.

From account-based ticketing and active travel to the Western Railway Corridor and zero emissions, we’ve put together this glossary to keep you up to speed. 


Account-based ticketing (ABT) is a method of charging fares for public transport through an individual’s account as opposed to traditional options like coins. Passengers pay fares through smartphones, smartwatches, contactless bank cards, or other digital means. In Ireland, a project to develop an ABT system has termed it “next generation ticketing”. The Journal reported this week that it could be rolled out here within two to three years.

Active Travel

This one means about what you would expect it to, but it’s worth clarifying – it’s a term used to refer to walking and cycling. If you see local authorities or politicians talk about active travel policies, it’s probably in reference to projects like building a new footpath or encouraging commuters to cycle to work. Dublin City Council has advised people to choose active travel options as much as possible during the pandemic to limit pressure on public transport.

Bike to Work

The Cycle or Bike to Work Scheme is a tax incentive aimed at encouraging people get to work by cycling. If an employer takes part, they pay for the cost of a new bicycle and accessories for an employee. The employee then repays in instalments that are taken out of their salary before income tax, PRSI and the Universal Social Charge are deducted. It’s valid on bikes and equipment up to €1,250 or electric bikes and safety equipment up to €1,500, and an employee can use the scheme once every four years.


BusConnects is one of the big buzzwords in the world of public transport right now. It’s a programme that’s redesigning bus services in Irish cities. The rollout has started in Dublin with a new “H-Spine” line and will continue over the next few years.

In Cork, a public consultation on a redesign of the bus network under BusConnects closed this week in one of the first steps of the project there, and changes under the plan are due to be implemented by 2027. 

One of the largest BusConnects changes is a new bus network with redesigned routes in the Dublin area based on “spines” and “orbitals”. Here’s how BusConnects explains those:

“Spines [are] frequent routes made up of individual bus services timetabled to work together along a corridor. At the end of the corridor, the individual services branch off to serve different areas.”

“Orbitals [are] services operating around the city. They provide connections between suburbs and town centres, without having to travel into the city centre. They also provide connections to rail, Luas and other bus routes.”

There’ll also be some city-bound routes that aren’t part of a spine and operate on their own timetable; local routes connecting locations within a particular area to each other and other transport options; and peak-only and express routes that operate during peak times or with fewer stops.


Córas Iompair Éireann is responsible for Bus Éireann, Dublin Bus, and Irish Rail, Ireland’s three largest transport companies. It owns Irish Rail’s railway lines and stations and works with the Northern Ireland Transport Holding Company on rail services that run between the Republic and Northern Ireland. It also operates Rosslare Europort and a private guided tour service called CIÉ Tours in Ireland and the UK.

Dart+ Programme

The Dart+ Programme is a plan to expand the Dart in Dublin from 50km to 150km by introducing new services that run further north and west out of the city. It includes a Dart to Maynooth/the M3 Parkway on the Sligo rail line; one to Hazelhatch and Celbridge on the Kildare line; and new services between the city centre and Drogheda on the northern line, in addition to better services to Bray and Greystones to the south.

It also plans to eliminate some level crossings to “reduce rail/road conflict that limits train capacity” and to carry out work that would accommodate electrification, widening rail corridors, and increasing the number of services.


A greenway is a route set aside for cyclists and pedestrians that isn’t accessible to cars. The longest in Ireland is the Royal Canal Greenway, which runs along the Royal Canal for 130km from Maynooth in Kildare to Cloondara in Longford. Some of them, like the Great Southern Trail from west Limerick to north Kerry and the Old Rail Trail from Mullingar to Athlone, were built along the site of old disused railway lines.

Go-Ahead Ireland

Go-Ahead Ireland operates 25 bus routes in Dublin and five commuter routes between Dublin and other counties, with a fleet of over 200 buses. The routes, which were previously operated by Dublin Bus and Bus Éireann, have been privatised in their transfer to Go-Ahead. The first privatised route was the 175 from Citywest to University College Dublin in September 2018, and the most recent ones to come under their operation were the 33S, the 102/A/C/P/S, the 220S, the 236S and the 270S.

In its first year, almost half of services operated by Go-Ahead failed to meet punctuality targets that were outlined in their contract with the National Transport Authority, which received more than 4,000 complaints in relation to the company during 2019.

Hydrogen fuel cell

Hydrogen fuel cells are a source of clean energy that can be used to power vehicles instead of petrol or diesel. They only emit water, which means vehicles that use hydrogen fuel cells do not emit carbon. Ireland has purchased three hydrogen fuel cell-electric buses which have started to operate on Bus Éireann’s 105X route between Dublin and Ratoath in Co Meath.

Light rail

Light rail refers to transport modes like trams or metros that aren’t as ‘heavy’ as traditional trains, but that usually operate along their own track or routeway, unlike a bus. In Ireland, that’s the Luas. The Luas launched in Dublin in 2004 with the Green and Red lines. A one-line system is planned for Cork under the Cork Metropolitan Area Transport Strategy 2040.


MetroLink is the project to develop an underground rail line between Swords and the city centre via Dublin Airport. Under current plans, the route would stop in or near Seatown, Swords, Airside Retail Park, Dublin Airport, Ballymun, the Helix, the National Botanic Gardens, the Royal Canal, the Mater Hospital, O’Connell Street, Tara Street, St Stephen’s Green, and Charlemont.

It was first proposed in 2005 under Transport21, a transport strategy that was cancelled in 2011 during the recession. It was known as the Metro North to distinguish it from two more planned lines – one that would have ran from Tallaght to the city and an orbital line linking the the north and west lines running from Finglas through Blanchardstown and Clondalkin to Tallaght.

However, in 2018, the plans for the Metro North line changed to extend it further into the south and the project was renamed to become MetroLink.


The National Transport Authority (NTA) oversees public transport and transport development in Ireland. It is a statutory body under the Department of Transport and was established in 2009. It also has responsibility for enforcing vehicle clamping legislation and small public service vehicles (like taxis).


Permeability is a measure of how easy or difficult it is for people to move from one place to another, especially whether urban or suburban areas, like estates, are connected to each other in a way that allows simple access between them on foot. High permeability – paths that link estates internally, for example, rather than needing to use main exits and roads – is considered a feature of good planning.


A small public service vehicle (SPSV) is a fancy term for vehicles that can carry up to eight passengers and come at a cost to use, such as a taxi or limousine. The National Transport Authority regulates SPSVs in Ireland and drivers require a special licence to operate them.


Transport Infrastructure Ireland was set up in 2015 as a merger between the National Roads Authority and the Railway Procurement Agency, which previously had responsibility for the national road network and light rail and metro development respectively. It’s a state agency under the Department of Transport and oversees transport infrastructure and services like tolls, national roads, and the Luas.

Water bus

Water buses and water taxis are boats that service multiple stops to bring passengers from one point to another along a river, lake, or coastline. A water taxi usually means a boat that runs on demand, whereas a water bus uses a regular schedule.

There are a small number of water taxis or water buses in Ireland that provide leisure trips, but we don’t have a network used for daily public transport in the way that some other countries do. In the Netherlands, for example, a network of water bus lines link the cities of Rotterdam and Dordrecht and serve twenty stops along the Nieuwe Maas river.

Western Railway Corridor

The Western Railway Corridor is a stretch of railway line in the west of Ireland. The line is mostly disused and campaigners have long called for it to be put back into use, either as a train line or converted into a greenway for cyclists and pedestrians. Trains run on the track between Ennis in Co Clare and Athenry in Co Galway, with the disused section of the line extending to Tuam, Go Galway; Claremorris, Co Mayo; and Collooney, Co Sligo.

The programme for government committed to giving consideration to a report compiled by EY on the future of the corridor and to “take appropriate action”. The EY report said that the costs of reviving the line would be greater than the financial benefits and that the “‘do nothing’ option of leaving the line inactive” would be preferable from that perspective.

The EY report was reviewed by JASPERS, an EU agency, which said that EY’s findings are “not unreasonable” and that the “project in its current form is likely to present a very weak justification for investment”.

However, campaign groups like West on Track say there is a strong business case for reopening the line between Galway and Mayo.

In April, the Department of Transport and Northern Ireland’s Department for Infrastructure put out a tender for external consultants to conduct a Strategic Rail Review looking at the rail network on an all-island basis.

Zero emissions

In public transport, zero emissions refers to a mode of travel that doesn’t produce any pollutants, which negatively impact the environment. Active travel methods like walking and cycling are the best transport options for avoiding emissions, followed by vehicles that use alternative energy sources to petrol or diseal, such as hydrogen fuel or electricity. Overall, the government is setting a target to reduce emissions by 51% by 2030.

This work is co-funded by Journal Media and a grant programme from the European Parliament. Any opinions or conclusions expressed in this work is the author’s own. The European Parliament has no involvement in nor responsibility for the editorial content published by the project. For more information, see here.

Your Voice
Readers Comments
This is YOUR comments community. Stay civil, stay constructive, stay on topic. Please familiarise yourself with our comments policy here before taking part.
Leave a Comment
    Submit a report
    Please help us understand how this comment violates our community guidelines.
    Thank you for the feedback
    Your feedback has been sent to our team for review.

    Leave a commentcancel