Later Opening Hours will require Re-Examination of Public Transport Timetables- NTA

Opening Statement of Anne Graham CEO of National Transport Authority to Oireachtas Joint Committee on Justice Re: Sale of Alcohol Bill 2022

Chairperson & members, thank you for the invitation to attend the committee.

The National Transport Authority (NTA) would like to bring the attention of the Committee to the possible impact of Section 89 (Prohibited Hours Generally) of the Sale of Alcohol Bill 2022 if enacted.

The proposed general prohibited hours of 12:30am to 10:30am is an effective extension of the opening hours of licensed premises in the evening by one additional hour.

Historically the timetable for the provision of urban public transport services aligned with the opening hours of licensed premises at 11:30pm. While some services are provided later in the evening, the majority of public transport services terminate in our cities at or before 11:30pm. I acknowledge that outside of the cities the public transport services can terminate at much earlier hours.

NTA is supportive of the ongoing development of the evening and night-time economy and is working closely with the relevant departments and stakeholders to provide an appropriate level of public transport services during the night to support those availing of social and cultural activity and to support those working in those industries.

The BusConnects networks for Dublin and Cork support the provision of 24-hour bus services on key routes on a seven day basis. The design of the Galway and Limerick network of bus services are currently underway with Waterford scheduled for redesign in 2023. The provision of 24-hour bus services will be considered in those redesigns.

BusConnects Dublin implementation is underway and to date ten 24-hour 7-day bus services have been provided in Dublin while maintaining the weekend Nitelink services on other key routes. Further 24-hour services will be provided over the next few years if the current shortage of driver resources in the industry is eased. In Cork it is planned to provide an additional 24-hour service to support the service 202 that is currently provided.

If the extension of the general opening hours of licensed premises to 12:30 is enacted, the Authority will have to re-examine the timetables of bus and other public transport services to see whether it is possible to extend a proportion of these services to later operating hours in our cities, what the impact of those extensions would be on the transport operators and their staff and what the cost to the Exchequer would be to provide any additional operating hours beyond the current schedules.

The Authority is not just focussed on the provision of services in urban areas but is also working to provide an appropriate level of services in towns and rural areas through its Connecting Ireland programme. The demand for late-night transport services in rural Ireland is more difficult to meet with appropriate services but the Authority continues to examine innovative solutions in the provision of bus, taxi and hackney services across the country to meet the demand.

I would be happy to answer any questions.