Sunday 10 February 2008

Millions spent but better bus service fails to woo public

DESPITE spending hundreds of millions of euro on quality bus corridors and a new fleet over the last ten years, the number of journeys to work and school by bus increased by just 3,000 during the same period.

Figures released by the Department of Transport last week reveal the number of journeys to work and school made by bus or coach in the greater Dublin area between 1996 and 2006 increased by just two per cent.

Some 156,161 trips to work or to school per day in the Dublin region were taken by bus in 1996. By 2006 the number of these trips had increased to just 159,233.

Dublin Bus has invested millions of euros in a new fleet, and in quality bus corridors, launched new routes and extended many others as well as making its buses more accessible and attractive.

However, the latest figures available from the Central Statistics Office, show that in Dublin during 2006 almost half the population drove to work while just 14 per cent of commuters took the bus.

The Dublin Transportation Office spent €202m on bus corridors and a quality bus network (QBN) in the greater Dublin area between 1993 and 2007 inclusive. Another €55m was spent upgrading the wider network up to the end of last year.

"Bus patronage increases should be considered in the context of overall growth in travel in the last decade, which was an increase of 33 per cent," said a spokesperson for the Dublin Transportation Office.

"Although investment has been made in improving the reliability and consistency of journey times by bus, more remains to be done in terms of improving the overall experience of travelling by bus, and this will undoubtedly require further investment."

Under the Transport 21 plan, Dublin Bus was given the target of increasing passenger-carrying capacity by 60 per cent by 2015, through new and replacement bus acquisition. The plan also set out details for the doubling of the number of quality bus corridors.

"Regarding passenger trends, it would be more reasonable to look at our overall trend in passengers carried," said a spokesperson for Dublin Bus. "Numbers have increased from 134 million in 1998 to 148 million in 2007.

"This growth has been achieved against a background of substantial increase in rail and Luas capacity. We estimate that more than 10 million customers per annum have transferred to these modes of transport."

The figures from the Department of Transport also show that commuter trips by train have more than doubled in the last ten years.

The increase of 115.5 per cent in train trips includes journeys on the Dart and Luas and the increase was significantly buoyed by the arrival of the Luas in 2004.

At the same time the number of journeys to work and to school made by car increased by some 69 per cent in the region over the same period, while trips by vans or lorries increased by 110 per cent.

The figures also suggest that cyclists in the Dublin area are becoming a dying breed as bicycle journeys to work or school have declined by 25 per cent in the last ten years. Walking trips only increased by some 7.8 per cent.

Irish Independent

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