The planned expansion of the Dublin Bikes rental scheme to the new DIT campus at Grangegorman has been put on hold because of a lack of money to run the service.
The National Transport Authority (NTA) last February wrote to then minister for transport Paschal Donohoe outlining plans for 15 new bike stations which would allow the rental scheme to be extended to Grangegorman - representing the first major expansion of the scheme into suburban Dublin.
The NTA told Mr Donohoe the scheme would be in place by September/October this year. However, Dublin City Council said it cannot afford to run the extended service, which is already operating at a loss.
Under the NTA’s plans nine of the stations would be in the vicinity of the Grangegorman campus. Four more stations would be in the north inner city, increasing the number of bike spaces in the area to ensure the Grangegorman stations ran efficiently and didn’t become congested.
Two stations were also to be added on the south side of the city, at Merrion Square South and at the Wilton Terrace near the junction with Wilton Place, under the same expansion programme.
The NTA’s briefing document last February said the exact locations for each of the stations had been identified and design drawings for the stations had been completed. An initial one to two stations would be built in March or April this year, with a “full construction programme” to commence in May and June, the document states.
“Stations will be opened as singles/batches when completed. All stations to be operational by the end of summer 2016.” a final date of September/October is given for the completion of the expansion.
However, a spokesman for the council said it did not have the money to operate the extra stations which would result in the addition of hundreds more bike spaces to the system.
“The capital costs of the expansion would be in the region of €1.2 million, but the maintenance and management of those extra stations would cost in the region of €500,000 a year,” he said.
“ While the NTA could fund the capital costs, it doesn’t fund the ongoing operational costs. The support of the NTA for the bike scheme is very welcome, but we’re already operating it at a loss of more than €376,000 and we can’t afford to increase that.”
The scheme currently costs €1.9 million a year to run, subscriptions and usage charges come to €1.2 million and Coca Cola pays €312,000 in sponsorship, with the council covering the shortfall.
Last April a report to city councillors by Dublin bikes project manager Michael Rossiter recommended increasing annual subscriptions by 50 per cent to €30 so that scheme no longer ran at a loss to the council. However, the report stressed, the increase in the annual charge would not be sufficient to fund any expansion of the scheme.
A new funding mechanism would be required and the report recommended funding expansion through the installation of advertising screens on publicly owned lands.