Go-Ahead to start operating some bus routes in Dublin next year

Private operator Go-Ahead to run 24 bus services in suburbs that avoid city centre

British transport company Go-Ahead has secured a tender to take over 23 existing Dublin Bus routes and introduce one new service, running from Citywest to UCD. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA

Dublin Bus has lost control of 10 per cent of its bus routes to a private operator in the biggest change to the city's bus services since the State-owned company was established 30 years ago.

British transport company Go-Ahead has secured a tender to take over 23 existing Dublin Bus routes and introduce one new service, running from Citywest to UCD. The company, one of the largest bus operators in London, will begin services in Dublin from November 2018.

The National Transport Authority (NTA) put the routes out to tender in 2015 and six companies were shortlisted. However, four dropped out, leaving just Dublin Bus and Go-Ahead in the running.

NTA chief executive Anne Graham said Go-Ahead had offered the "most economically advantageous tender" and would bring a "fresh dimension" to Dublin's bus services. She said she was not in a position to reveal how much Go-Ahead would be paid for the service until a contract stand-still period had passed, but was "confident the tendered service will result in savings for the State". The NTA "expects improved punctuality and reliability" on existing services, she added.


In a statement, Dublin Bus chief executive Ray Coyne said it was a "disappointing" outcome. "We submitted a high-quality, competitive bid based on our years of experience in operating these routes."

The 24 routes are all suburban orbital services on the north and south side of the city, none of which run to Dublin city centre. Routes include 45A from Dún Laoghaire to Kilmacanogue, the 18 from Palmerstown to Sandymount and the 17 from Rialto to Blackrock on the southside; and the 102 from Sutton station to Dublin Airport, the 4 from Clontarf Road to Santry, and the 220 from Ballymun to Blanchardstown serving the north and west of the city.

Not privatisation

Ms Graham stressed the deal did “not represent a privatisation of the service. Nothing is being sold and the services are not being deregulated.”

The services would remain in the control of the NTA, she said, which would set fares, frequency and scheduling for the service. The NTA would also be providing the buses to the company.

“The contracting model that we are putting in place is the same as the arrangement that we have had in place for years for Luas. Luas is owned by the State and run by Transdev. These routes will be owned by the State and run by Go-Ahead.”

The frequency of services on the routes would increase by about 35 per cent. Ms Graham said the bus stops, travel cards and fares would all remain the same.

No Dublin Bus drivers will be made redundant, but they can if they wish transfer to Go-Ahead. Ms Graham said it was “up to the operator” what rate of pay they offered new staff, but she said she did not believe there would be a “drive to to bottom”.

‘Industrial unrest’

Following the announcement, the National Bus and Rail Union (NBRU) warned of “major industrial unrest” if more routes were handed over to private companies. NBRU general secretary Dermot O’Leary said the union would ensure “our affected members on the privatised routes will not be forced to move from their current workplace”, and would be seeking to recruit Go-Ahead staff to the union.

A 2015 Labour Relations Commission agreement protects the terms and conditions of existing Dublin Bus staff .

Go-Ahead was established in the late 1980s in the UK following the privatisation of the National Bus Company. Just hours before the award of the Dublin contract yesterday, one of its buses crashed into a shop in southwest London. Ten people suffered minor injuries.

Earlier this year, the National Transport Authority announced plans to overhaul the existing Dublin Bus service with a reorganisation of routes; the implementation of a cashless payment system ; simplification of the fare structure, to allow movement between different transport services without financial penalty; and as the segregation of buses from general traffic on the busiest routes to and around the city.

Go-Ahead’s bus routes

111 Loughlinstown Park to Dún Laoghaire

45A Dún Laoghaire to Kilmacanogue

59 Dún Laoghaire to Mackintosh Park

63 Dún Laoghaire to Kilternan

114 Ticknock to Blackrock Station

161 Dundrum Luas Station to Rockbrook

184 Bray rail station to Newtownmountkennedy

185 Bray rail station to Enniskerry

220 Ballymun to Blanchardstown

236 Blanchardstown Centre to Damastown

238 Tyrrelstown to Lady’s Well Road

239 Blanchardstown Centre to Liffey Valley Shopping Centre

270 Blanchardstown Centre to Dunboyne

17A Blanchardstown Centre to Kilbarrack

76A Blanchardstown Centre to Tallaght

18 Palmerstown to Sandymount

17 Rialto to Blackrock

33A Swords to Balbriggan

33B Swords to Portrane

75 The Square Tallaght to Dún Laoghaire

76 Chapelizod to Tallaght

102 Sutton station to Dublin Airport

04 Clontarf Road to Santry

Plus new route: 175 Citywest to UCD

Olivia Kelly

Olivia Kelly

Olivia Kelly is Dublin Editor of The Irish Times