Thousands more cars on roads as strike drags on
Thousands of commuters have been forced to make their own way to college and work as the Bus Éireann dispute shows no signs of being resolved.
Data from Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII) shows that traffic volumes on 17 main roads across the country rose last Friday compared with the same day two weeks ago, with an additional 16,000 vehicles on the road.
Irish Rail has also reported an upsurge in people using commuter rail services into Dublin, particularly on the Maynooth line and M3 Parkway. Private coach operators also say they are running near full capacity.
Some 110,000 people use Bus Éireann services every day, many of whom have been forced to drive after strike action commenced last Friday.
TII said the increased traffic volumes were not leading to problems but added it was too early to set out the impact on the road network. A spokesman said congestion levels could worsen if the strike continues.
Data from TII traffic counters suggests that volumes rose on Friday compared with the same day two weeks previously. March 17 was discounted as a comparator because it was St Patrick's Day.
It shows that 290,854 vehicles were recorded at 17 points across the network, an increase of 16,041, up more than 5.8pc compared with two weeks previously.
The biggest increase in absolute numbers was on the N7 between Kill and Johnstown in Co Kildare, up almost 5,800 or 6.5pc. On the M9 between Kilcullen and Castledermot, also in Co Kildare, volumes rose almost 13pc to 21,650.
There were also sharp rises between Dingle and Annascaul in Co Kerry, up 11.5pc; near Dungarvan in Co Waterford, up 8.3pc; and on the M3 between Virginia, Cavan and Kells, Co Meath, up 5.5pc.
Meath commuters rely heavily on Bus Éireann services to get to work or college, and many are driving to park and ride sites to avail of Irish Rail commuter services into Dublin on the Maynooth line and from the M3 Parkway.
Irish Rail said there was no increase on inter city traffic, but noted that some services were suspended because train drivers refused to pass picket lines.
Private coach operators also report a surge in numbers, with national director of the Coach Tourism and Transport Council Kevin Traynor saying most services were at full capacity, and that bigger operators were laying on additional buses where possible.
"Any surplus or additional capacity they might have had is being utilised where possible," he said.
Neither he nor the National Transport Authority (NTA) had heard reports of people being stranded, but Mr Traynor acknowledged that some parts of rural Ireland might have no services.
The NTA said that private bus operators could add auxiliary services, or extra buses, under the terms of their licence.
"I'm sure people are making decisions to defer journeys and make alternative arrangements," a spokesman said. "We would urge the parties in the dispute to get together and sort it out.
"In the meantime, we would urge people to look at alternatives where available, including local link services - the village and town-based services by communities but supported by us - private buses, taxis and trains."