Coronavirus: Transport union calls for bus and train capacity reduction

NBRU says current passenger numbers on routes do not allow for ‘social distancing’

A transport union wants capacity on buses and trains to be significantly reduced to provide more space between passengers during the coronavirus outbreak.

The National Bus and Rail Union (NBRU) said there should be a major scaling back on the numbers permitted to travel on individual buses and trains to keep in line with “social distancing” recommendations put forward by public health experts.

HSE advice in respect of the outbreak is that people should “maintain social distancing, ie leave at least 1m (3ft) distance between yourself and other people, particularly those who are coughing, sneezing”.

NBRU general secretary Dermot O’Leary said the average full load on a double decker bus was about 75 passengers when all those seated and standing were included. He said this should be reduced to about 45 passengers to live within the social distancing guidelines.


“Whilst the numbers travelling have started to drop off, we remain concerned that the seating and standing arrangements on our buses and trains are not in line with recommended best practice,” he said.

“The fact is that the current bus and train configuration are not compatible with the ‘social distancing’ advice from the health experts.”

Mr O’Leary said he had written to the National Transport Authority in recent days urging that unions “be directly involved in the fluid decision making process in relation to measures or interventions which may be required on our public transport system”.

“In the absence of a reply to-date to this reasonable request, we at the NBRU have written to the CEOs of larnród Éireann, Dublin Bus and Bus Éireann requesting that bus and train capacity be reduced to provide for alignment with the recommendations on social distancing.”

In these letters to Dublin Bus, Bus Éireann and Irish Rail, the NBRU said it was deeply concerned “that the current public transport offering across the CIÉ companies, particularly at peak commute periods, has reached a level where it is (currently) impossible for commuters to obtain a viable personal space onboard our trains and buses.

The NBRU also suggested that hand sanitizers be installed at all bus and train entry points and that “surgical-type gloves (be distributed) for those front of house’ personnel that are interacting with commuters”.

“Furthermore, we at the NBRU are to request that an immediate audit be undertaken to ascertain the current level of staff/commuter interface points across the three companies, a reduction of such interactions, where possible, would be prudent,” he said.

“The lack of protective screens across the Bus Éireann fleet is a major concern to our members at that company.”

Martin Wall

Martin Wall

Martin Wall is Washington Correspondent of The Irish Times. He was previously industry correspondent