The lead designer of BusConnects has accused the National Rail and Bus Workers Union of "putting out alarming and misleading information" about proposed changes to the Dublin transport network.
“They have been going around telling people that your route is gone when in fact your route is just renumbered and changed in some way and so a lot of people have been needless alarmed and needlessly frightened,” Jarret Walker told Newstalk Breakfast.
"We're seeing it in the responses and at public meetings. If all I knew about this plan was from the National Rail and Bus Union I would be furious too. People have to find out about the plan for themselves. That's why NTA has been doing this series of meetings, so you can learn about the plan. The important thing is for people to go to busconnects.ie and learn about the plan for yourself and tell us what you think."
However Dermot O’Leary of the NBRU said this was “shooting the messenger” for highlighting the reduction of direct city and schools services and taking buses from estates. There were “major flaws” with the plan, Mr O’Leary tweeted.
Mr Walker also said he did not think he had met with Minister for Transport Shane Ross. "I don't know if I met with him personally, I know the NTA meet with him all the time, so I know he was in the loop."
When asked if the Minister had any involvement with the design of the Bus Connects network, Mr Walker said the Minister had delegated that to the NTA staff "who are the experts in that and we designed the plan around the table with NTA and Dublin Bus and staff from the councils.
“He (Mr Ross) was certainly there sitting next to us when we announced it and began the consultations several weeks ago.
“It was my understanding that the NTA’s role was precisely to develop the plan for the Minister.”
The BusConnects scheme involves changes to bus routes into Dublin city, and a €2 billion investment in the network.
Mr Walker explained that about eight per cent of existing bus users would no longer have a direct bus to the city centre under the plan, they would have to change from a bus to another bus or very often from a bus to a train (Dart/Luas).
“In almost all cases they would actually get to the city sooner by doing that because we would run much more frequent services. This is a big point all through the plan.
“The plan is based on the notion that the way to get people to more places sooner so they can get to more places and do more things, is to ask people to interchange a little bit more, that sounds wrong, but it’s actually how the math works.
“That’s actually how you build the most efficient system because it lets you build simple routes that are very frequent so that it’s very easy for routes to connect with one another.
“It’s very much the way most European systems work.We looked at the whole demand of travel across Dublin, there’s the city centre, we know what’s there, we look at the universities, we look at the hospitals, we look at shopping centres, at the outlying major employment centres, we look at all of those, we know exactly where they are, we understand where people are going and then we try to lay out a network that lets people get to any of them, so what you have right now is a network that’s very good for going to the city centre, but it’s very frustrating often to try to go any where else and if Dublin is going to be able to prosper, if Dublin is not going to choke to death on cars, it has to be possible to use public transport to go many more places and for it to be much more useful for many more trips.
“We have to stop forcing people to own cars because the public transport isn’t there for them and that’s what the plan strives to do.”
Mr Walker said he was not surprised at the protests. “I’m not surprised that people are alarmed, I certainly wish we had gotten better information out sooner, I take responsibility for that.
"I would also say there has been a pretty intense campaign to confuse and enrage people that has come from one of the two unions representing bus drivers, I'm referring to the National Bus and Rail Union, they have been putting out alarming and misleading information almost from the moment that the plan came out."
He called on the public to examine the plan and to make comments. “We want your comments. We’re going to take it back and revise it.
“This plan is not done, this plan is a draft, tell us your opinion.”