Chairman of CIÉ, Dr John Lynch; Deputy Chair of Bus Éireann, Ms Tras Honan; CEO of Bus Éireann, Mr Tim Hayes; Manager of the Eastern Region Mr Joe Kenny; Network Manager of the Eastern Region, Mr Robert O Mahony:
Thank you for inviting here today at the launch of your ambitious Bus Éireann bus expansion plan for the Eastern Region.
Good progress has been made in the past 10 years in upgrading transport infrastructure in the Eastern part of the country and throughout the country generally. We have seen major sections of our national primary routes upgraded to motorway standard and many long-standing bottlenecks removed.
The railway network has been saved from decline and passenger numbers are growing at a record rate. The Railway Safety Programme combined with the upgrading of rail carriages for the travelling public, has facilitated the provision of more frequent services throughout the railway network in response to rising demand. The success of the two LUAS lines has given us the confidence to forge ahead with the development of LUAS and Metro services in the Dublin area and with the interconnector and electrification of more of the mainline railway services in the Dublin area.
The frequency and capacity of bus services has also increased. We now have more Dublin Bus, Bus Éireann and private buses providing more services and carrying more passengers than ever before. Dublin Bus, despite the advent of LUAS, carried over 146 million passengers in 2006. Dublin Bus passenger capacity has grown by over 58% since 1997. Bus Éireann's passenger numbers, including school transport, have grown by 8% over the period 1997 2006 from 85 million to 92 million. Bus Éireann has, I understand, increased peak capacity by 40% on all main corridors into Dublin.
Bus services are and will remain the work-horse of our transport system. This is recognised in Transport 21 which provides for ongoing investment in bus services, bus priority measures and park and ride facilities over the lifetime of Transport 21. (2006-2015).
I would also like to say that I have attended a number of presentations by Bus Éireann in relation to their city plans in Waterford and in Galway and next Monday I will be in Limerick for the launch of the Limerick City Bus Plan. But what has also impressed me too are the stations i.e. the current upgrade underway at Bus Áras and on 26 February, together with Dr Lynch, I opened a new bus station in Tralee designed by the international architects Pascal and Watson. It is really a beautiful piece of work. The newly upgraded Ennis Station is going to open next Monday. Not only are these enhanced stations a pleasant experience for customers but they also allow for more easy access and have improved facilities for the mobility impaired. Customers using public transport deserve the best possible services.
Bus Éireann Development Proposals
I am delighted to be here today therefore at Bus Éireann's announcement of its proposals for the development of its bus services in the Leinster/Greater Dublin Area (GDA) over the next three years. I welcome the ambition underpinning the proposals which Robert O Mahony, Network Manager, Eastern Region has outlined.
The proposals, envisage substantial improvement and expansion in the level, frequency and quality of Bus Éireann's range of services in the Eastern Region.
In addition to new services, existing service frequency will be improved, with integrated services for town, commuter and interurban services.
I welcome in particular Bus Éireann's commitment to securing a major increase in passenger numbers and thereby securing an improvement in modal shift by the removal of an estimated two million car journeys per annum up to 2016. The move to full accessibility on town services and to increased accessibility levels on Stage Carriage and Commuter services is particularly welcome.
I note also the emphasis placed on significantly increasing the level of integration with other public transport modes, including LUAS, other bus, rail, air and taxi services. This is an area where there is scope for significant improvement in services.
Another critical area where the image of bus services could be improved and of course I recognise the work done to date in this area - is in customer services. Clock face departures, on line journey planners, cleaner buses, customer information systems are all areas, as set out in Bus Éireann's plans, where higher standards will assist in attracting more passengers. We need to get more people out of their cars and on to public transport.
Funding has already been put in place for many of the new buses now being proposed. Last September I approved funding of €50 million for the purchase of 160 new buses by Bus Éireann for use only on routes which are the subject of a public service obligation. The 160, I understand, includes 75 buses for deployment in the Leinster region. Bus Éireann expect to begin taking delivery of these 160 buses later this year and that all will be in service during 2008. I am happy to announce today that I have approved additional funding of over €20 million for the purchase and delivery in 2008 of a further 75 new buses by Bus Éireann, (also for use only on routes which are the subject of a public service obligation), including an additional 21 new buses for the Leinster Region.
Funding for the remainder of Bus Éireann's proposals for 2009 and beyond will be considered in the context of the capital allocations under Transport 21.
Bus Priority Measures
A key ingredient in addition to a higher quality fleet that is professionally managed with a strong customer focus for a good bus service is a system of bus priorities and traffic management that ensures that buses avoid the effects of congestion.
There has been major investment in recent years in the Quality Bus Corridor Network throughout the Greater Dublin Area (GDA). That Network consists of almost 150km of QBC. Since 1997, over €290m has been invested in traffic management and bus priority related projects in the GDA.
Transport 21 has allocated nearly €600m to traffic management and bus priority related projects in the GDA over the 10-year life of the programme. Transport 21 has committed to doubling the length of the Quality Bus Corridor Network over that period.
The Quality Bus Corridor Network programme currently targets major national bus routes used by Bus Éireann in the Dublin/Leinster area.
The Naas Road Quality Bus Corridor providing bus lanes in both directions along the Naas Road is underway, providing interchange possibilities with Luas and four other QBC's.
On the N3 at Bracetown, an outbound bus lane utilising reconstructed hard shoulder of the N3 is under construction.
On the N3 around Dunshaughlin, a bus lane running 1 km north and 1.5 km south of the village is under construction.
On the N3 inbound, along the Navan Road, 5 kilometres of QBC is planned on the hard shoulder from the Meath County Boundary to Blanchardstown Roundabout.
In all approximately €13m is being invested in these bus priority projects to improve bus journey times.
Congestion undoubtedly has an impact on bus operations and we must do all we can to eliminate it but we must be careful also not to use it as an excuse to avoid taking measures within our control to improve the operation of services.
In conclusion ladies and gentlemen, I thank Bus Éireann management and staff for their sustained efforts to provide high quality bus services throughout the country.
Thank you all very much.