National road system may not be able to cope with BusConnects plans

Transport Infrastructure Ireland highlights limited ability of M50, N3, N4, N11 and N81

The M50: The Transport Infrastructure Ireland’s submission noted the inclusion of an orbital bus route  on the M50, ‘where the motorway is frequently congested and where the speed limit of 100kph applies’. Photograph: Alan Betson / The Irish Times

The M50: The Transport Infrastructure Ireland’s submission noted the inclusion of an orbital bus route on the M50, ‘where the motorway is frequently congested and where the speed limit of 100kph applies’. Photograph: Alan Betson / The Irish Times

 

The national road system may not be able to cope with some of the key changes proposed in the BusConnects project aimed at improving Dublin’s bus service.

In its submission to the National Transport Authority (NTA), Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII) has highlighted limited ability on the roads to accommodate the proposals. It pointed to a number of national roads which are proposed to be used for spinal and orbital bus routes, namely the M50, N3, N4, N11 and N81.

“Within the metropolitan Dublin area on the radial routes outside the M50, due to increasing demand and congestion, there is often restricted scope to increase capacity within the existing national road corridors whilst protecting their existing strategic function and also meeting future projected demand,” its submission said.

“This means there may be limited ability within the existing national road corridors to accommodate public transport proposals such as interchanges, bus lanes, etc.”

Under the BusConnects plans, current bus numbers would be replaced by a new lettering system from A to G, indicating seven main routes through the city, with buses running every four to eight minutes on these “core corridors”.

Orbital services

Radial bus routes would be supplemented by frequent orbital services, enabling passengers to switch from one bus to another at no extra charge. The plan acknowledges some bus users who currently have a direct route into the city centre from where they live would have to change buses to reach their destination but says journey times will be significantly shorter.

TII’s submission noted the inclusion of an orbital bus route (W4) on the M50, “where the motorway is frequently congested and where the speed limit of 100kph applies”.

“This may have implications for bus service reliability,” it said.

TII is responsible for the country’s national roads and light rail infrastructure. The NTA said it agreed with TII, that on national roads “there may be some limitations within them to accommodate additional public transport facilities”.

“NTA and TII are working together to identify and exploit all opportunities to add additional bus facilities,” an NTA spokeswoman said.

“At the moment TII is developing proposals to widen the N3, which is the road the Blanchardstown core bus corridor will travel on, and the NTA is collaborating with TII to provide additional bus lanes as part of that proposal.”

TII said both agencies acknowledged that due to existing traffic levels on the M50 and its orbital routes, there were “limited opportunities for changes to the existing infrastructure”.

“Each corridor has unique characteristics and will require specific solutions that both organisations will work together in providing,” a spokesman said.

A revised network is due to be published by the NTA by mid-2019 and a further round of public consultation will begin. The new network is expected to be rolled out by early 2020.

Upgrading bus routes

Aside from a redesign of the network, the BusConnects project also involves upgrading 16 core bus routes and cycle lanes into the city.

Property owners who may lose part of their front gardens will be notified from next month and a separate public consultation process will run until the middle of 2019.

Construction of new lanes would not begin until 2021, and pending approval from An Bord Pleanála.

The NTA previously said the network redesign could be implemented using the current road network with “some upgrades to infrastructure at key interchange locations”.

“These can be done in advance of the rest of the bus lanes and cycle lanes being built,” it said.

TII’s submission also noted “a considerable number of instances” where the proposed network plan would interact and interchange with Dublin’s Luas system.

“These interfaces need to be complementary and supportive of the functions and operations of both public transport systems,” it said.