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Dublin Bus chief 'It's easy for cynics to sneer at efforts to climate-proof bus services'

Billy Hann looks at the progress Dublin Bus has made and addresses some of the challenges it still faces.

THIS WEEK, DUBLIN will welcome thousands of visitors to the Transport Research Arena (TRA) Conference in the RDS. The city might have its challenges, but Dublin is a beautiful and vibrant city, increasingly becoming an attractive destination for people to visit, live, work and build their lives around.

The unmistakable signs of Dublin’s success are all around us: bustling shopping streets, lively bars and restaurants, a thriving cultural scene and a record number of visitors converging on the city.

Dublin’s success, however, has placed significant pressure on services and infrastructure and, as a result, posed a lot of questions for transport operators.

The relentless nature of public transport – Dublin Bus operates 364 days a year — means we rarely have time to take stock but on the occasion of an event like the TRA conference is appropriate to analyse where we are and where we need to go over the next 10 years.

Some of the challenges for Dublin Bus I will be outlining this week include climate change and with that, the transition to an electric fleet. Congestion is also something we have to tackle every day, as well as the growing threat posed by a skills shortage.

Skills, skills, skills!

The pace of change has accelerated sharply. In the past, growth in demand for public transport was comparatively steady. Sometimes the system was stretched but in general, there was time to adapt, assimilate and digest new patterns of travel, to predict and provide additional capacity.

Until recently, transport operators had relatively simple priorities; most were concerned with journey time, capacity and reliability. If they were a mechanic short, they would hire a new one. If they were running out of capacity, they would simply add more services. But today’s world is significantly more complex.

Dublin Bus and other transport providers have experienced significant difficulties in recruiting skilled workers like mechanics, which has in some cases unfortunately impacted service delivery for our customers.

As a society, we have been too focused on directing our young people towards university. Universities are great places, but they are not for everyone, and Dublin Bus, indeed the wider economy, needs a strong pipeline of talent to fill skilled roles.

We delivered 146 million customer journeys in 2023. This number is likely to reach 150 million by the end of 2024. So, we simply must recruit more drivers, more mechanics and skilled workers if we are to have any hope of meeting future customer demand.


As our economy and population have grown, congestion on our roads has risen and will continue rising if we do nothing to stop it. Dublin is our capital city. It is a modern European City and Dublin simply will not work with buses stuck in traffic gridlock. We need to create more priority for public transport. There are today, not enough priority bus corridors, although this should be addressed through the continued implementation of the BusConnects programme.

Of the existing bus lanes, too many are not designated 24/7 and are often used by private vehicles. Stopping this would be an easy fix and the change could be implemented very quickly. This would help simplify bus lane enforcement and improve journey times.

At a recent Oireachtas Committee, I said that Dublin needs to go on a car diet, so I am pleased to see progress towards the implementation of Dublin City Council/National Transport Authority’s City Centre Traffic Plan.

The reality is it needs to be more difficult to drive private cars through Dublin City Centre. Nothing – congestion charging or further removal of on-street parking – should be off the table. This is not out of any desire to punish car drivers but because there is a growing realisation that without action, the city will become unmanageable and both the economy and environment will suffer.

Climate change

There is now, thankfully, consensus that climate change is the defining issue of our time. The transport sector represents the second-largest source of GHG emissions in Ireland so doing nothing is not an option. If we are to succeed in rising to this challenge head on, and I believe we will, it will require new approaches, new ways of doing things and an openness to change.

That’s why all of us at Dublin Bus are focused on delivering change in the form electric buses in Dublin. We currently have 30 electric buses operating and this number will rise to 130 in the Autumn.

It is easy for the cynics or the hurlers on the ditch to sneer at efforts to climate-proof bus services or other public services. But look back at other major projects in recent years. Luas Cross City, The Dublin Port Tunnel, Terminal 2 at Dublin Airport, BusConnects. We rarely regret what we build, and good ideas are often laughed at until they become the norm.

I am certain future generations will not look back and say, why did you move so fast? They will ask us why, given what we know, we didn’t do more sooner.

So, we have everything to gain from taking such a historic leap and I have every confidence we will make it. It’s easy to forget just how far Dublin Bus has come in recent years. Customer numbers have risen by 20 million in 10 years, and we have rebounded from the pandemic stronger than any other transport provider in Ireland. There are now 10 of the 24/7 routes, with more on the way.

We have challenges to overcome but we are ready to meet them. Day in, day out, drivers and mechanics and all Dublin Bus employees do their best for you, the passengers. They do this by providing a modern transport service in a beautiful but old city, faced with an ever-changing transport landscape.

The nature of transport is changing, and fast. We hope to change with it.

Billy Hann the Chief Executive Officer of Dublin Bus.

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