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€2bn BusConnects plan set to go ahead despite calls for it to be halted

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The BusConnects plan to revolutionise public transport in Dublin will continue as planned - despite calls for it to be scrapped by bus and rail workers concerned about the effects of Covid-19.

The National Bus and Rail Workers Union has called on BusConnects and the proposed Metrolink to be shelved.

It has written to Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and other party leaders seeking changes to public transport to protect workers and passengers.

It has also suggested schools, colleges and workplaces could stagger their opening times to reduce a demand surge on transport services.

But BusConnects, the ambitious €2bn plan of the National Transport Authority (NTA), has said its plans remain on track.

"BusConnects remains on target and we are still working on the network redesign element with a plan to deliver Phase One by mid-2021," said Grainne Mackin, director of communications for the project.

"Not only does the plan aim to deliver a new and efficient bus service, but it also plans 200km of cycle lanes and a better public realm with wider paths, and this is proving to be increasingly important now," she added.

Ms Mackin said that, since the Covid-19 lockdown, people have seen the benefits of having fewer cars in the city, and how it is easier to navigate safely on foot or by bike.

Asked about concerns over capacity on buses, and how there will need to be fewer passengers on a bus to adhere to distancing concerns, Ms Mackin said that while there may need to be fewer passengers on each bus, there would need to be a larger number of buses moving quickly through the city to deliver a service.

"If more people are working from home post-Covid, it would mean less demand for access to the city at peak times, but those who do use public transport will need an efficient and safe service," she said.

Fears were raised in the Dáil yesterday about the chances of the Metrolink and BusConnects transport projects going ahead due to the massive impact of the coronavirus crisis on the State's finances.

But Transport Minister Shane Ross sought to allay such concerns, saying: "I don't think there will be any go-slow in any of these projects."

Separately, Mr Ross said that Transport Infrastructure Ireland is estimated to lose between €52m and €90m in toll-road income due to the drop in traffic level because of the coronavirus restrictions.

He said this would have to be taken into account when the semi-State organisation's funding is considered.

Irish Independent