Latest figures puts public transport passenger recovery at 98% of pre-Covid levels
Passenger numbers on Ireland’s subsidised public transport network have largely recovered to pre-pandemic levels according to preliminary figures for 2022 published by the National Transport Authority (NTA) today.
Over 249 million passenger journeys were provided by Dublin Bus, Bus Éireann, Iarnród Éireann, Luas, Go-Ahead Ireland and Local Link on ‘Transport for Ireland’ Public Service Obligation (PSO) services in 2022.
The figures show passengers have returned to public transport in large numbers following the lifting of remaining Covid restrictions during the year.
While the 249m is lower than the 292m carried in 2019, by the end of the year, passenger numbers were close to and in some cases, above pre-pandemic levels. In November 2019, a total of 24.5m journeys were made on public transport. The figure for November 2022, the latest month for which comparable data is available, was 24.0m, which represents a 98% recovery.
Bus Eireann PSO services have fared particularly well. In November 2022 the company carried 3.5m passengers, compared to 3.3m in the same period in 2019. This represents a recovery of 105%. Bus Eireann carried a total of 33.7m in 2022, compared to 39.9 in 2019.
Dublin Bus returned to pre-pandemic levels carrying 11.56m passengers in November 2022, a slight increase on the 11.54 figure for the same period in 2019. Dublin Bus carried a total of 121m passengers in 2022.
The overall Dublin city area bus service, which includes Go-ahead Ireland carried 12.7m passengers in November 2019 compared to 12.9 three years ago, representing a 99% recovery.
Luas carried 4.1m passengers in November, bringing it all the way back to the pre-Covid figure in November 2019.
Irish Rail passenger numbers have not yet returned to pre-Covid levels, but the gap between 2019 and 2022 figures narrowed every month in 2022. In November 2022, the company carried 3.4m passengers compared to 4.0m in November 2019, an 85% recovery. The company carried a total of 35.8m passengers in 2022 compared to 50.1m in 2019.
Passenger numbers on LocalLink services in rural Ireland have increased to a greater extent than all the others. The annual figure in 2019 was 2.5m passengers, but in 2022, that rose to 2.8m, a recovery of 112%.
NTA CEO Anne Graham said: “These figures are very encouraging and are a testament both to the work being done by the operators and their staff, and to the faith that our customers have in the public transport offering in Ireland.
“While other jurisdictions dramatically scaled back public transport services in response to the Covid pandemic, here service levels remained largely intact. This meant that the link with public transport customers was maintained throughout the pandemic and that services were there for them to use as restrictions were eased.
“We believe that Ireland is ahead of the pack internationally when it comes to the post-Covid recovery of public transport passenger numbers.
“The Netherlands for example has seen a recovery of just 78%, with a 77% recovery in Ontario Canada and a 72% in New York city.
“We have also witnessed a change in the travel patterns of people with fewer journeys being made at peaks, and more journeys now being made during off-peak periods.
“It is also clear that customers have also responded positively to the improved service levels that were introduced in 2021 and 2022. For example, four of the 11 phases of BusConnects in Dublin have now been implemented: the H Spine and the C Spine in 2021, along with the Northern Orbitals and the G Spine in 2022.
“As a result, we have seen new 24-hour services along with greater frequencies and improved coverage in many parts of the city with more to come this year and next.
“Outside Dublin, 37 new or enhanced Local Link and Bus Éireann bus services have been launched under the Connecting Ireland programme. As a result, over 300 new stops were added to the bus network, with 67 towns newly connected and in excess of 98,000 additional vehicle kilometres being clocked up each week.
“In Cork, commuter train services were transformed in 2022 with a major train frequency boost on the Cork to Cobh and Cork to Midleton lines.”
Eamon Ryan, Minister for Transport said:
“Looking back, 2022 was a remarkable year of growth for public transport in Ireland. What makes it even more remarkable, however, is the post-pandemic bounce-back which makes Ireland a new leader in public transport provision and confidence. We are an outlier for all the right reasons when it comes to public transport.”
“We did a number of really important things. We not just kept public transport running throughout the pandemic, we improved and strengthened it, developing new routes and introducing a range of new fare offers which meant that people can now travel on quality public transport for less.
It is positive proof that when you provide people with a good and cost-effective public transport service – whether that’s in rural or urban areas – they will use it.
“But we need to do more, and we will do more. This government is absolutely committed to continuing to strengthen our public transport, and to connecting even more cities and communities, with buses, trains and light rail.
“I am confident that communities across the country will continue to embrace the developments in our public transport network. People are looking for safe, reliable, frequent and affordable public transport and this recovery of passenger numbers suggests to me that this is what they are getting.”