Photo: Dublin Bus
This is a time of great change for public transport in Dublin. With the new Luas extension to the northside – Luas Cross City – to begin passenger services on Saturday 9th December, work is also underway on a complete redesign of the Dublin Bus network.
Dublin Bus is the most visible and most used part of the city’s public transport network. In 2015, the company carried 122 million passengers, or 334,000 per day. Therefore any changes to routing and timetables will have the potential to affect the vast majority of Dubliners.
The €1bn review is part of BusConnects, a wider programme of investment in the bus system in Dublin which promises to include new infrastructure, more bus prioritisation measures and better real-time passenger information, as well as a full root-and-branch bus network review.
Dublin’s bus network is currently “over-reliant on radial routes”, according to Dermot O’Gara of the National Transport Authority, which is overseeing the review. That is, most cross-city journeys require passengers to go into the city centre and back out again, whether or not that’s the most direct route.
“We’re looking at an alternative system that will have more reliance on orbital routes, so you might have a series of bus routes that will run concentric to the city centre rather than running into it,” says Dermot. “The geometry of it, I’m told, means that you can get people to and from their destinations more efficiently and, usually, more quickly.”
In addition, ‘Bus Rapid Transit’ will be part of the mix – longer buses with greater capacity and multiple doors. “It’s kind of like ‘Luas on tyres’,” Dermot explains, “with high levels of priority, fewer stops and cashless transactions.
Three BRT lines are planned – Blanchardstown to UCD, Clongriffin to Tallaght and Swords to city centre – but there’s also the intention to increase the levels of bus priority on the other main radial and orbital routes.
“The particularly busy roads such as Phibsborough Rd will continue to have a very good service,” says Dermot. “People won’t see any diminution whatsoever in any of those instances, and in fact there may well be more frequent bus services on some of those roads.
As well as changes to routing and timetables, the overall capacity of the network is expected to be increased. “There are two elements of that,” says Dermot. “First of all, the on-road infrastructure – as we improve that, capacity will increase. But we’re also investing in additional vehicles in the coming years, and that will also lead to an increase in capacity.”
According to Dermot, the NTA has made a commitment to move away from diesel and is in the process of buying a fleet of hybrid vehicles, to be delivered by the end of this year. “Ultimately,” he adds, “we want to transition completely away from diesel and at some stage in the future – we don’t have a definitive date – we’d be looking to have a fleet that would contain at least some electric vehicles.”
Will the whole fleet eventually be fully electric? “At some stage, but we’re not really in a position to timeline that at the moment,” he says.
A consultation exercise took place in the summer of 2017, with around 7,000 responses received. Dermot says the message was that passengers are in favour of reduced journey times even if it requires them to take two buses instead of one: “The feedback that we got back was very strongly to say, yeah, it’s a little bit inconvenient but if it’s going to get us to where we’re going quicker, we’re happy to go along with it.”
A draft network is expected to be published in March of next year, and then it will go out for a further period of consultation. “We’ll be looking to finalise things by the end of next year but that’s contingent on the amount of work that would have to be done to finalise it,” says Dermot.
Dermot says that there is nothing to fear: “No place that is currently served by a bus will go unserved. Anywhere that is served by a bus will continue to be.”
He’s unable to provide any guarantees about the frequency of service – some areas may have a more frequent service, some less frequent – but the bottom line is that “all places will continue to have a good service, and in most instances journeys will be shorter and quicker than they are at the moment.”
Dermot doesn’t see Luas and Dublin Bus as rivals. “I think the more people can move around the city the better it is for all public transport operators,” he says. “I think it will be positive for the city centre, positive for passengers and I think it will bring more people into town which will be good for everybody.”
The short answer is yes. The airport link has been on the table for many years, but was put onto the backburner following the financial crisis. However, progress is again being made. “Before Christmas, we can expect a final determination on the precise route that will be taken,” says Dermot. “Once that’s signed off, you can go into planning and all of that kind of stuff and the ball is really moving at that stage.”
More Dublin Bus news: UK firm to take over Dublin Bus routes