“This is not about being anti-car. It is about being pro-Dublin” CEO of Dublin Bus tells politicians

Both the Dublin City Centre Transport Plan and more priority bus corridors are needed to allow buses to run on time, Billy Hann, the CEO at Dublin Bus, is to tell the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Transport today.

The comments come as a group of businesses mainly linked to car parks are looking for support from other businesses to mount a legal challenge to the City Centre Transport Plan.

It also comes as new data was released showing that more people are commuting into the city centre by bus than before the pandemic. He said that the company delivered 146 million customer journeys in 2023 and expects this to exceed 150 million trips by the end of 2024 which would be “the highest number of customer journeys in Dublin Bus’ history.”

Capacity has already been added, he said, even ahead of the rollout of BusConnects. But Hann said that the company cannot take this for granted and congestion is a risk factor.

“The biggest barrier to faster and more reliable bus services is the dominance of the private car in Dublin,” said Hann in his opening comments. “We need to break the dominance of the private car. We need more certainty.”

“This is not about being anti-car. It is about being pro-Dublin. A greener, cleaner, quieter Dublin – a more pleasant place to live and work, a Dublin with more space for buses and in particular the people on them, allowing faster, more reliable journey times. This is not some utopia, this is something we can achieve,” he said in his opening comments, which he posted to Linkedin.

The pre-arranged comments form part of his opening address to the commute, which is meeting at 1.30pm today. The meeting is to discuss the challenges facing the bus and coach industry and will also include representatives from Go-Ahead Ireland, Bus Éireann and the Coach Tourism and Transport Council of Ireland. It is expected to be streamed live at oireachtas.ie/en/oireachtas-tv/cr2-live.

“The Committee is aware of my views on congestion. Six out of every ten cars are using the city centre as a route to reach a destination outside of the centre. They take up vital road space and increase journey times for people using Dublin Bus. Moving this traffic out of the city, as the NTA/DCC Transport Plan seeks to do, should not impact economic activity or cultural life. It should improve it,” Hann said.

He said: “Today, it can take up to 29 minutes to travel just 10km in Dublin. This is clearly not going to convince people to leave the car at home. I find this doubly frustrating because the reason for this slow progress is mostly congestion caused by cars. Ask yourself this, is it right that a line of cars with an average of one occupant per vehicle delays a bus with 85 people on it?”

He said that it is also becoming “more challenging” to run a “consistently punctual service” because there are now large variances in daily traffic congestion, with much lighter traffic on Mondays and Fridays compared to Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays.

He said: “Change is undeniably challenging. Old ways, old interests, old thinking rarely go gently or quietly. However, this should not deter us from confronting the tough decisions necessary for shaping a better Dublin. We must prioritise the collective good over individual comfort and ensure that progress for the city is not dictated by convenience.”

He also said that Dublin Bus “recognises the rise in anti-social behaviour incidents across the city and the public transport network” and that the company has continued to face a challenge in terms of recruitment.

“Dublin Bus has a proven track record of recruitment. Over the last two years we have recruited 870 drivers and 40 mechanics. We have also completed a very successful female recruitment campaign which has seen 94 female drivers hired. In the case of mechanics, we have recruited from Europe and in the coming months will welcome new mechanics from the Philippines to the Dublin Bus team,” he said.

“The success of our recruitment campaigns should not overshadow the ongoing challenge posed by the prevailing skill shortage affecting not only Dublin Bus but also the wider transport sector.”

He added: “We must recruit more mechanics and skilled workers if we are to have any hope of meeting future customer demand. But the skilled worker pool here in Ireland is shallower than it should be. The reality is that we lost an entire generation of apprentices. We now, as a country, need to start really ensuring that we are championing the skills industry and apprenticeship programmes. Dublin Bus for its part has increased its number of apprenticeships in recent years and currently has 60 apprentices at various stages of training with a further 23 starting later in the year.”

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