An Appreciation

John Francis (Jack) Higgins

John Francis (Jack) Higgins

John Francis (Jack) Higgins’s role in Irish public transport was enormous, and as a nation we still benefit from the many innovations he pursued in more than 40 years of dedicated public service at home and abroad.

He passed away on September 24th, after a long illness. Jack was born in Dublin on February 5th, 1930, the only son of Lieut Col Michael Higgins and Ellen Jane McKenna. He attended Rockwell College and University College Dublin where he graduated BE (mechanical and electrical) in 1952. He took up a graduate apprenticeship with Metropolitan Vickers Electrical Company, Manchester. In 1958 he joined CIÉ at Inchicore Works where he specialised in the introduction of modern production systems into the railway workshops.

In 1961 CIÉ was de-centralised and Jack was appointed area manager Limerick with full responsibility for all public transport activities in the region. From 1963 to 1972 he was manager of Dublin City Services (now Dublin Bus). His vision, courage and innovatory skills brought about huge changes in the way Dublin’s buses were then operated.


In 1972 he was appointed to CIÉ head office, Heuston Station, as director of operations and his elevation to general manager followed in 1975. He possessed an uncanny ability to see potential technological advances and how they would contribute to the efficiency of transport operations. He had tremendous courage to take on issues that had to be addressed and was totally committed to the concept of public service.

His most notable achievement was Dublin Area Rapid Transit (Dart). He successfully persuaded Pádraig Faulkner, then Minister for Transport, of the merits of revitalising the existing heavily patronised Howth to Bray Commuter Rail line. This led to Dart coming into Howth/Bray service in 1984, a high capital, low maintenance railway, with cutting-edge safety technology and electric traction. From day one the Dart was a winner.

Jack was honoured to become president of the Community of European Railways for a two-year term in 1985 and 1986, extended on merit for a third year 1987. When Jack retired, he contributed to many railway restructuring projects, notably in the five Central Asian states (Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tadjikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Turkmenistan), in Azerbaijan, Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Georgia, Russian Federation, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Albania and Morocco.

After the death of his first wife Helen, he married Una who survives him, together with two sons, three daughters, and eight grandchildren. He was a keen golfer, a lifelong member. of Lahinch Golf Club, a member of Portmarnock Golf Club and of Elm Park Golf Club where he served as captain for two periods and as president once.

His services to transport were recognised by learned bodies; he was an honorary fellow Institute of Engineers of Ireland FIEI, fellow Chartered Institute of Transport FCIT, fellow Institute of Mechanical Engineers FIME and a member of the Irish Academy of Engineering. He was a true patriot. Ní bheidh a leithéad ann arís. – JOHN MARKHAM