Over the course of the COVID-19 crisis, my Department has been working closely with the National Transport Authority (NTA) to ensure public transport services continue and to enable the provision of public transport services in line with the Government Roadmap for Reopening Society and Business. Throughout, the NTA has been engaging directly with the public transport operators in both the public service obligation (PSO) and the commercial parts of the sector.
As the Deputy may be aware, since Phase 2 of the Re-opening Roadmap commenced on 8 June last, Dublin Bus has reverted to a full timetable with some limited exceptions at peak times where demand has remained low on certain routes. Bus Éireann and Go-Ahead Ireland PSO bus services returned to a full time-table on the same date and Iarnród Éireann returned to a full time-table on 31 August.
The Government's new "Living with Covid" Plan sets out capacity guidance for public transport at each of the 5 risk levels identified in the new Plan. At current levels of risk, public transport operators are restricted to having only 50% of their passenger-carrying capacity on vehicles. The Plan provides guidance for the public about using public transport at the different risk levels, including that wearing face coverings is mandatory, and encouraging use of off-peak services and sustainable active travel alternative options where feasible. Importantly, the continued guidance under the Plan on working from home where possible and the restricted level of opening of social, leisure and other facilities has reduced the demand for public transport well below normal levels.
The NTA will continue to work with public transport operators to monitor demand against capacity and where issues arise and where spare fleet and drivers are available, additional services will be provided.
The Government is financially supporting the continued provision of public transport services over the course of this very difficult year where demand collapsed, and where capacity is now restricted for public health reasons, this support takes the form of a substantial funding increase to keep PSO services running, and also the introduction of a new, temporary financial support for commercial public transport operators.