Transport unions urge members not to raise capacity on services beyond 75%

Return to ‘sardine-like loadings’ should not be considered or entertained, letter says

Transport unions have urged their members not to facilitate the planned increase in capacity on services beyond 75 per cent until all public health restrictions are lifted in October.

The National Bus and Rail Union and Siptu also said they would fully support frontline train workers, including train hosts, revenue protection, security and customer service staff who opted, for their own safety, not to operate on crowded carriages across the rail network.

The unions said “such an environment, in our view, would serve as incubators for future strains of Covid-19-like viruses”.

The National Transport Authority on Tuesday said that from today buses, trams and trains would return to full capacity. It said this meant that seating would no longer be blocked off onboard services.


The two unions said they reassessed their previous advice to members following the statement from Taoiseach Micheál Martin that there would be a "gradual and careful easing of restrictions" through September, culminating in a full lifting of restrictions in October.

“We believe that the Taoiseach’s gradual and careful easing of restrictions should therefore apply to public transport.”

In a letter to the NTA, the unions said “the return to sardine-like loadings on public transport cannot, nor should not, be considered or entertained”.

Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly said on Wednesday morning that the decision was made at Cabinet level, rather than on foot of public health advice from the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet).

Public health sources had mixed views on the move, with some seeing it as inevitable progression in the opening up process and others saying it would not help to bring Covid cases down. One felt it would have been better to wait until later in the month to see the full impact of the return of schools on case numbers before proceeding.

‘Real concern’

The general secretary of the National Bus and Rail Union, Dermot O’Leary, said on Wednesday: “The announcement by the Government that public transport has returned to 100 per cent passenger capacity has generated real concern amongst our members on the frontline.”

“The complete lack of consultation with the representatives of transport workers regarding this decision is in stark contrast to the engagement by the Government with many other sectors concerning the reopening of society from the Covid-19 restrictions.”

Siptu sector organiser, John Murphy, said: "In order to protect their health and safety and that of the wider public, our unions have advised our frontline members that a 75 per cent passenger capacity maximum should remain in place until further notice."

He said the Taoiseach’s statement that Covid-19 restrictions would be “gradually and carefully eased during September, before a significant change of approach in October” had also “led to concerns that public transport workers are being treated as guinea pigs by the Government”.

“We are simply not prepared to facilitate such a scenario.”

Martin Wall

Martin Wall

Martin Wall is Washington Correspondent of The Irish Times. He was previously industry correspondent