Ireland's sustainable transport plan

IMPROVED bus services are one of the features of a €4.5billion (£4billion) sustainable transport plan for Ireland, unveiled this week by the country’s transport minister, Noel Dempsey. Its aim is to cut congestion, reduce CO2 emissions and encourage car-using commuters to switch to public transport.

Dempsey explains: “Travel trends in Ireland are unsustainable. We can’t keep pouring cars onto our streets. Cities are grinding to a halt with choking traffic congestion and that can’t continue. This action plan shows a different way and sets out how to get there. This is not simply a series of transport initiatives. It represents a radical transformation in transport policy. It has the potential to fundamentally change how we all travel.”

The plan – to be implemented by 2020 -  includes the widespread use of bus priorities, with car-free streets in urban areas, and the creation of a redesigned network of bus services to make better use of the country’s bus fleet and to provide more attractive services for disabled people.

Also proposed are orbital services in urban areas, a national smart-card ticketing scheme, and the carriage of bikes on buses.

The contentious issue of awarding bus service contracts to private operators through competitive tendering is also part of the plan.

In urban areas it is planned that every home will be no more than 800m from a bus routes, and that services will generally operate from 6am to 1am seven days a week, with a minimum 10-minute peak-period frequency. The plan states: “The service proposal will require a major overhaul of existing bus routes in urban areas, a transparent contract system for allocating public service subsidy and the provision of additional buses once the use of the existing fleet has been optimised.”

Concludes Dempsey: “We are setting out our clear policy decision to put people not cars at the centre of our transport planning and delivery in future.”

Dempsey has announced the plans just two weeks after the country’s two major operators, Dublin Bus and Bus Eireann, said they were cutting their fleets by 10 per cent, with the loss of around 600 jobs.