LONG-distance car commuters in the greater Dublin area may soon have the opportunity to swap the car for the bus.
A plan to run commuter buses every 12 minutes along key commuter belts has just been sent to the Government by Bus Eireann.
The company has told the Government that commuter towns such as Navan, Drogheda, Mullingar and Wicklow are developing so rapidly they are now effectively small cities and need to be provided and planned for accordingly.
The plans which could transform life for commuters living in Meath, Louth, Wicklow and Kildare include:
* A new "city-style service frequency" on all major commuter routes into the capital, with buses running as regularly as every 12 minutes throughout the day, meaning customers would no longer require timetables.
* A new 24-hour corridor north of Dublin linking the capital, Dublin Airport, Balbriggan and Drogheda.
* New direct services between commuter locations such as Navan, Newbridge, Mullingar, Wicklow and Dublin Airport on a "dawn-til-dusk" basis.
Bus Eireann spokesperson, Erica Roseingrave, said the company planned dramatic improvements in the eastern region. "There will be buses on a 12-minute frequency not just at peak times but throughout the day," she said.
The plan also includes direct connections between Dublin Airport and all the major commuter towns in Leinster, as well as the development of more 24-hour services.
The Government has agreed to bankroll the plan as part of the Transport 21 initiative. Bus Eireann wants 366 fully accessible vehicles to enable it to implement the plan. The company says its development plan is driven by the need to provide for a growing population and to cater for the explosion in demand for transport during hours traditionally considered off peak.
Ms Roseingrave said: "The population of the GDA is growing and people are working longer hours. The demand for bus transport - whether it's earlier, later, throughout the night - is booming. The economy runs 24 hours; nine-to-five is a thing of the past."
Bus Eireann was already operating 24-hours-a-day between Dublin and Belfast and the company was carrying nearly as many people at 3 in the morning as 3 in the afternoon.
"Our earliest commuter service is now at 5.20am out of Drogheda and departures will get even earlier," she added.
As part of the plan, a round-the-clock 24-hour service linking Drogheda, Balbriggan, Dublin Airport with the capital is planned.
New hourly direct services linking Navan/Dunshaughlin, Newbridge/Naas, Wicklow/Bray and Mullingar/Enfield with Dublin Airport will also be provided.
The Ashbourne route would improve to a 12-minute all-day frequency, the Navan route to a 15-minute all-day frequency, and the Newbridge/Naas service to a 15-minute peak frequency.
A new service linking Blanchardstown, one of the fastest growing areas in the country, with Ratoath and Ashbourne, and with Dublin Airport and Swords is also on the way.