Airlines say 25% more than last year pay flying visit for Christmas


The number of people entering the State through the airports for Christmas is 25 per cent up on last year, according to major Irish carriers. Ryanair expects to be the busiest, with 100 extra flights laid on to ferry a total of 250,000 holiday-makers between December 18th and January 4th.

Aer Lingus expects to carry 210,000, with both airlines saying the period of stay is longer than in previous years. Stena Lines expects to carry 82,000 passengers and 20,000 cars between Ireland and Britain over the holiday period. Irish Ferries will carry approximately 55,000 passengers and 12,500 vehicles on its British routes and 2,500 passengers and 1,000 vehicles on its French route.

People on the move over Christmas in central Dublin should expect traffic congestion at key intervals, according to Dublin Corporation. St Stephen's Green North (between Dawson Street and Kildare Street) will be closed tomorrow from 8.30 a.m. to 11.30 a.m. to facilitate an outside broadcast of The Gay Byrne Show.

Traffic will be diverted via Dawson Street, Molesworth Street and Kildare Street, the corporation said. Diversions will be signalled well in advance.

Bus Eireann expects to carry about 200,000 passengers on its Expressway and local bus services over the holiday period. Extra buses will operate as required on all major routes up to and including tomorrow, Christmas Eve.

Normal services will operate on all routes tomorrow, the company said, although some local services to and from Dublin will terminate earlier than usual.

City services in Cork, Galway, Limerick and Waterford will cease operation earlier than usual, said Bus Eireann, with a number of suburban and local services in Cork ending earlier than normal. Eireann services on Christmas Day. On St Stephen's Day, city services in Cork will operate as on Sundays and there will be a limited service on some local routes. There will be no city services in Galway, Limerick or Waterford. A limited service between major towns and cities will resume on Saturday. On December 27th, services generally will operate as on Sundays, with some alterations.

Leaflets containing full travel arrangements are available from all Bus Eireann offices and depots and an information hotline on (01) 836-6111 is operational daytime hours on Saturday and Sunday.

Iarnrod Eireann is expecting up to 300,000 people on Intercity rail services over Christmas and the New Year to January 4th, with more than 50 special trains operating. There will be no train services on Iarnrod Eireann or Northern Ireland Railways on Christmas Day or St Stephen's Day.

In Dublin, the last city-bound DART services tomorrow will be the 9.09 p.m. from Howth and 9 p.m. from Bray, both of which will terminate at Connolly Station. The last outbound DART trains for Howth and Bray will leave Connolly Station at 9.20 p.m. and 9.05 p.m. respectively. On Sunday Iarnrod Eireann will resume normal Sunday services with some alterations. The DART will operate to a normal Sunday schedule, and there will be no outer suburban services.

The Dublin Transportation Office has expressed broad satisfaction with this year's Operation Free-flow which, it said, has capped traffic congestion at 1996 levels, the year of its first operation. It also said the park-and-ride facilities at Whitehall and Simmonscourt are "working well" although the Whitehall site appears to be the more successful of the two. Some 850 people used the Whitehall site on Saturday, December 12th, with about 300 people a day using it during the week.

In Simmonscourt the number using the site on the same Saturday was 300 to 350, while the daily figures were put at 200 to 250. "The Simmonscourt site was probably a bit too close to the city centre," a spokesman said.

In the Pro-Cathedral, Marlborough Street, Dublin, tomorrow, the Palestrina Choir will sing carols at 9.30 p.m. The Archbishop of Dublin, Dr Desmond Connell, will celebrate the Mass of Christmas Night at 10.30 p.m. and the music will be Mozart's Missa Brevis, sung by the Palestrina Choir, with the cathedral ensemble. Missa Brevis sung by the same groups may also be heard on Christmas Day in the Pro-Cathedral, at 11 a.m.

Services in St Patrick's Cathedral tomorrow will feature the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols, broadcast by RTE. Admission is by ticket only and all tickets have been allocated.

On Christmas Day, Holy Eucharist will be celebrated in the Lady Chapel at 8.30 a.m. and 12.15 p.m. Matins will be sung at 11.15 a.m., and at 3.15 p.m. there will Christmas music from Handel's Messiah, for which no tickets are required.