The numbers using public transport have increased in recent years with a 6% increase recorded in 2018 across the State supported services of bus, rail and light rail.
These passenger increases reflect a growing population, a strong economy and an increase in the amount of public transport services being made available through the various operators. Those increased services have been supported through increased PSO subvention which between 2016 and 2018 rose by 9% (including Local Link), as well as increased capital investment.
In terms of bus, the Deputy is aware that the PSO fleet has increased in recent years with additional buses being added to existing fleets, as well as constant replacement of older, dirtier buses with newer, cleaner buses. That expanded bus fleet has supported expanded bus services with a 7% increase in annual operated vehicle kilometres across both Bus Átha Cliath and Bus Éireann over the period 2016 to 2018 for example.
In relation to rail, increased services such as the 10-minute DART and expanded usage of the Phoenix Park Tunnel have facilitated increasing patronage, but I recognise that there are particular capacity pressures now being experienced on the rail network, and in particular on the Greater Dublin Area commuter network which carries approximately 70% of all journeys. In the summer I secured Government’s approval for a new National Train Control Centre which will improve the overall management of the network, while more recently Government approved the expansion of the Intercity Railcar fleet through the purchase of 41 additional carriages, which will boost capacity by around 34% across the Maynooth, Kildare and Northern Lines. In addition to these initiatives, I will very shortly seek Government’s approval for a €1billion investment programme in our heavy rail network nationally which will provide the investment needed to maintain, renew and improve the network across the country.
In light rail, the Deputy will likely have already noticed the first of the eventual 26 extensions to the existing Luas Green Line fleet has entered service with additional extensions entering service on a regular basis over the coming months. Next year the 8 additional trams will begin to arrive also which will significantly boost capacity on the Green Line.
While in active travel my Department is providing increased funding to the NTA to allow it deliver the type of high-quality infrastructure required in our major cities to promote a shift to the active travel modes.
Of course these are largely short and medium term measures and the Deputy is aware that the longer term substantial increases in the capacity of our public transport network will be brought about through BusConnects in all major cities, DART Expansion across the Greater Dublin Area and MetroLink, each of which is hugely significant in their own right.