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Thursday 23 November 2017

Bus corridors and 'pay by phone' part of €1bn plan to beat gridlock

National Transport Authority CEO Anne Graham, Transport Minister Shane Ross and bus inspector Ciaran Keogh at the launch of the new plan. Photo: Julien Behal
National Transport Authority CEO Anne Graham, Transport Minister Shane Ross and bus inspector Ciaran Keogh at the launch of the new plan. Photo: Julien Behal
Paul Melia

Paul Melia

A network of high-speed bus corridors and introduction of cashless ticketing is planned under a €1bn bid to tackle the capital's congestion problem.

The National Transport Authority's (NTA) 'Bus Connects' plan aims to increase passenger numbers by 50pc to around 190 million trips a year, by offering segregated bus lanes with priority at traffic signals.

Changes to the ticketing system to reduce dwell times at stops are also proposed. The Leap Card, which accounts for around 70pc of all transactions, will remain in use along with a move to a new fare system where mobiles, credit/debit cards or bar codes are scanned and the fare deducted.

A 'tag on, tag off' system could be used, or 'flat fare' approach. Technology would also allow parking charges and bike hire to be processed.

The moves come due to growing congestion in the capital which is "strangling the life out of our cities", the NTA said.

It warns that average traffic speeds on the main roads during the 8am to 9am peak are 13pc slower compared with a year ago, as the number of cars paying the M50 toll has risen by 18pc.

The cost of time lost to congestion in the Dublin region is €352m a year. Unless radical changes are made and more people move to public transport, it will rise to more than €2bn annually by 2033.

"This will radically transform bus services in the city," NTA chief executive Anne Graham said. "Off-peak journey times can be delivered all day on priority corridors. There is the potential to hike numbers by at least 50pc."

Transport planners believe buses will form the spine of the transport network over the coming years given the fact that Dublin is a low-density city and plans for high-capacity transport systems such as Metro and Dart Underground are subject to funding constraints.

Some 11 radial bus corridors through the city centre and three orbital routes around the capital are earmarked for upgrading. Most are segregated from general traffic for just one-third of their length, which makes the bus system "less efficient, less reliable and less punctual", the NTA says.

Some journeys take up to 70pc longer at peak times due to traffic volumes.

"As a result, many people do not see any benefit in choosing bus transport," it added.

Under the plan, these 14 corridors will form the core bus network. Each will have priority at signals and be segregated from other road traffic. Some parking spots will be removed during the works, and pavements narrowed. Dedicated cycleways will also be provided.

The segregated corridors would take up to 30 months to be delivered after planning permission is secured.

Three Bus Rapid Transit (BRTs) are also proposed from Blanchardstown to UCD, Clongriffin to Tallaght and Swords to the city centre, and a review of the existing Dublin Bus network is under way, which will be subject to public consultation, and changes could be introduced in 2019.

Other changes include new bus livery, more real-time passenger information signs at stops, and an increased number of shelters, particularly at transport interchanges.

In addition, a network of park-and-ride sites close to major roads and transport hubs such as Luas stops and Irish Rail stations is planned, coupled with the introduction of low-emission buses, such as electric or hybrid. Some 500 will be in service by 2023 and full conversion of the fleet will be complete by 2030.

Irish Independent

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