Travel chaos looms as bus and rail services face chop
COMMUTERS face a year of travel misery with bus and rail companies expected to slash their timetables and axe routes to save money.
New figures show Iarnrod Eireann, Dublin Bus and Bus Eireann haemorrhaged 25 million passengers last year, a drop of 11pc.
The fall-off has forced the companies to take drastic action and Dublin Bus, which accounted for two-thirds of the lost passengers, is set to unveil a "redesign" of its timetable.
Bus Eireann also said yesterday that, "given the difficult financial situation", it would "adjust" its network to protect jobs and services. This could include reducing frequency or eliminating routes.
Iarnrod Eireann said it would keep services under review after it lost more than six million passengers (down 13.6pc).
But Transport Minister Noel Dempsey has already cut funding to CIE by €27m and said the companies could not increase fares to make up the shortfall.
Around 270 buses have already been taken off the road and Mr Dempsey said there was "no doubt" that the cuts in funding would affect services.
The figures show total numbers travelling with CIE generally fell from 235 million in 2008 to 209.3 million in 2009.
The corresponding falls in revenue means that services are likely to be affected in 2010 as transport planners examine which routes are in demand and which are just breaking even.
Bus Eireann numbers fell by almost 5.5 million (down 11pc), while Dublin Bus has fallen to 128 million -- a drop of 15.5 million (down 10.8pc).
Dublin Bus said that while overall numbers were falling, more people were now availing of its 50 cent flat-fare for travelling in the city centre.
Iarnrod Eireann said its drastic loss of passengers was due to the economic downturn and the collapse of the Malahide viaduct, which left thousands of commuters without a service for months.
"We had full closure on the northern line for three months so that would skew figures," a spokesman said.
"The DART was down 11pc, which is probably more reflective of where we are. People just aren't travelling as much any more.
"We hadn't been intending to apply for a fare increase. We will reduce costs by €30m this year. We're like every company at the moment, we're looking at all levels of our cost base."
The company will not open Kishogue station, near Clondalkin, on the Kildare line from Heuston to Hazelhatch because development in the area has not materialised as expected.
"Kishogue was being developed on the basis that there would be major development in the surrounding area but, quite simply, nothing has happened," the spokesman said.
The Railway Procurement Agency (RPA) had previously revealed that the Brennanstown stop near Cabinteely, which is part of the extension of the Green (Sandyford) Luas line, will also not open.
Figures also show that the RPA expects a two million drop (down 8pc) in passenger numbers. Luas carried 27.4 million people last year.
Fine Gael said that fares should be cut to encourage demand.
"They should be cutting their prices and getting people back onto public transport," Transport spokesman Fergus O'Dowd said. "Cost is a big issue for people at the moment. It's all about reducing prices."