Coronavirus: Public transport numbers 75% down on this time last year

NTA says trains, buses and trams will ‘continue to operate as normal’ during outbreak

Passenger numbers on subsidised public transport services have fallen by up to 75 per cent due to the coronavirus outbreak, the National Transport Authority has said.

Usage figures published by the State agency on Thursday show daily passenger numbers on services provided by Irish Rail, Dublin Bus, Bus Éireann, Go-Ahead Ireland, Luas and Local Link have fallen to between 25 per cent and 30 per cent of the levels seen this time last year.

The authority issued a statement after a day of discussions with public transport operators but did not provide a breakdown of which services had been hardest hit - either by route or operator.

Almost 800,000 passenger journeys are made on public transport in the State every day, with about 650,000 of these in the Greater Dublin area. Some 156,000 journeys are made on Dublin suburban rail services alone.


The authority said the services provided by these operators would continue as normal for the immediate future. It said it would continue to monitor transport patterns in conjunction with the operators.

Each of the public transport operators has established an internal coordination group which meets daily to monitor developments around Covid-19 and to update business contingency plans.

The authority said it had been advised that all public transport vehicles and stations were being cleaned in accordance with infection control measures issued by the HSE’s Health Surveillance Protection Centre.

HSE information is being displayed on buses, trams and trains, in stations and on real time passenger information displays across Ireland. All customer service channels remain open and are being monitored by public transport staff, the authority said.

Road traffic

The numbers of cars, vans and trucks travelling to and from Dublin has not shown a decline similar to that seen across public transport.

There have been mixed results for traffic figures on national roads with volumes increases on some routes, particularly into industrial parks in west Dublin. The figures have prompted Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII) to speculate that workers may be hoping to avoid exposure to Covid-19 by using their own cars to commute.

Given official advice to work from home where possible, and the number of closed shops, pubs and restaurants, TII said it would be reasonable to expect a greater reduction in the volume on the roads, particularly those leading to central Dublin.

Volumes at the morning and evening peak times are down on most routes, but not significantly so. A few routes, including the approach from Kildare to Dublin on the N7, have seen traffic volumes rise since January.

TII said it was important when looking at the numbers to note it has been a short time since the Government recommended that people work from home.

But beyond that caveat, it said it was not seeing the dramatic drop in traffic volumes that might be expected.

Slight falls

Traffic counters set into roads and monitored daily by the authority show only slight falls on the main routes into Dublin.

For example, on the N3 at Blanchardstown traffic volumes fell from a morning peak of 5,833 vehicles per hour to 4,750 per hour on Wednesday.

On the M1 approach to the city at Dublin Airport, the morning peak on January 23rd was 9,180, but this had fallen to 6,922 on Wednesday.

Falls of about 20 percent were experienced on many routes including the N4 near Liffey Valley.

The figures show more people were driving on the N7 to Citywest and its environs on Wednesday than on January 23rd, also a midweek day.

M50 volumes are generally down, with peak hour traffic between Dundrum and Sandyford falling from 7,425 in January to 5,020 in March. At one of the busiest sections of the M50 near Cloverhill Prison, morning peak hourly rates fell from 10,357 in January to 8,985 on Wednesday.

Tim O'Brien

Tim O'Brien

Tim O'Brien is an Irish Times journalist