A new bus network for Dublin, which will result in the first complete overhaul of the capital’s bus services with changes to all existing routes, will be implemented from next year.
Following three rounds of public consultation and 72,000 submissions, the final version of the network redesign has been published by the National Transport Authority (NTA).
The network redesign is part of the NTA’s BusConnects programme, which aims to overhaul the bus system in Dublin and has two main components: creating 230km of dedicated bus lanes in tandem with 200km of cycle tracks, and redesigning the bus network.
The provision of 16 designated bus corridors to accommodate the new network will potentially require widening roads and the loss of parking spaces, trees and parts of front gardens.
A third round of public consultation in relation to these corridors, some of which have proved controversial, will take place later this year.
The NTA said the new network would see increased evening and weekend services, with most frequent routes operating every 15 minutes or better on weekdays and Saturdays, most on Sundays also.
There will be a number of routes that will operate 24 hours a day. Overall, the level of bus services in the Dublin network will increase by 23 per cent as a result of the new network, according to the NTA.
The network aims to create a more coherent service for the capital that will eliminate overlapping routes and improve journey times.
A lettering system from A to H will identify eight “spines” through the city, with buses running every four to eight minutes. Numbers will be used to indicate different branches of a spine. For example, while all A buses will pass through Terenure, the A1 will continue to Knocklyon while the A2 will go to Tallaght.
These spines will be complemented by 12 orbital routes (lettered O, N, S, W) for passengers who want to travel in the outskirts of the city centre and providing connections between the suburbs and town centres, along with connections to rail, Luas and other bus routes.
The spines and orbital routes are supported by a number of local routes (L), city-bound routes (1-99), peak-only routes (P) and express routes (X).
One of the fundamental principles of the plan is that taking more than one bus to reach a destination would improve accessibility and could be a quicker option. When the NTA first published its plan in July 2018, more than 50,000 submissions were made on the redesign, with more than 70 per cent objecting to the loss of existing services or having to change buses.
Under the 2018 plan, up to 15 per cent of users would have lost their direct routes to the city. However, in revised plans published last October this was reduced to 5 per cent.
The final plan does not differ substantially from the October 2019 version. The NTA said “by changing a route to fix one problem, a new problem could be potentially created elsewhere”. However, it has extended some routes, and provided additional services to schools, hospitals and public transport.
Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan said the plan was a key part of the Government's policies to improve public transport and address climate change.
“Bus services across Dublin needed to be redesigned to be more coherent and efficient to meet the demands for a growing city, and I am delighted we are now able to implement this new plan after extensive public consultation,” he said.
"The last six months have been very challenging for everyone in Dublin and across Ireland. Bus services have provided an essential frontline service for the public and city during this time and the new Dublin area bus network will allow the service grow to meet people's needs as the city recovers."
Reaction to the final plan has been positive. National Bus and Rail Union (NBRU) general secretary Dermot O’Leary welcomed the changes made since 2018. “Despite many criticisms from the NBRU levelled at the NTA, it should be acknowledged that the final plan was crafted after it [the NTA] listened to the concerns of the Dublin Bus community.”
Consultation was vital to ensure the plan was accepted in communities, he said.
“Vulnerable groups such as the elderly, those with disabilities and school children will need to be assured that they will not be left isolated or abandoned as we transition to a new network.”
The redesign would be implemented on a phased basis over a number of years, beginning in 2021 and “subject to Government funding”, the NTA said.
A map of the new network is available at busconnects.ie.