Buses and trains ‘must run around clock’ post-Covid-19
NBRU calls for a night time commission to facilitate socially distanced 24-hour society
The National Bus and Rail Union says capacity restrictions mean up to 35 million passenger journeys a year cannot be accommodated. Photograph: Eric Luke
Buses and trains should run on a 24-hour basis to facilitate a round-the-clock society which would see businesses trade through the night in the post-Covid world, transport workers have urged.
The National Bus and Rail Union (NBRU), in a submission to the Oireachtas Covid-19 committee, suggested the establishment of an “Ireland Night Time Commission” which would “look at how we might sustain and grow economic/social activity across the 24-hour cycle”.
It said that irrespective of whether social distancing restrictions were set at one metre or two metres, there could be no going back to the days of passengers “squeezed like sardines” on buses, trains and trams.
The NBRU said capacity restrictions meant that up to 35 million passenger journeys a year which were made previously could not be accommodated in the future.
“New behavioural patterns must be adopted, no more standing on buses. Trains and trams will have to find a ‘new’ way of accommodating some standees, but not a return to sardine-like scenes that were the peak-time norm pre-Covid.”
The union repeated its calls for face coverings to be mandatory on all public transport and for Government incentives to be introduced to encourage working from home.
The NBRU also said the country needed “to look at the prospect of moving towards 24-hour economic/social activity, where businesses can open and trade through the night”.
It suggested staggered opening times during the day for schools and colleges to extend the peak travelling periods in the morning and evening.
The union said if social distancing guidelines were relaxed, the numbers on buses, trains and trams “might be increased to a level where customers may conceivably sit side by side on buses and trains, however, standing packed in the aisles shoulder to shoulder cannot . . . return”.
‘Abolition of standing’
It said the abolition of standing on a double-decker bus would lead to a 26 per cent reduction in capacity. It said if this figure was extended to trains and trams, then about 35 million journeys could not be made in the future.
The NBRU said that extending public transport services to run around the clock “may have the potential to assist towards creating the environment for a 24-hour society”.
“At a time when the challenges of how we restore normal economic/social activity are taxing the minds of a wide range of stakeholders, nothing should be ruled out. The NBRU is advocating the establishment of an Ireland Night Time Commission to look at how we might sustain and grow economic/social activity across the 24-hour cycle.”
It said a similar report in 2019 in London recommended establishment of night-time enterprise zones, and a transport working group to expand 24-hour transport services.