Bus Éireann reports return to pre-pandemic passenger levels

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Bus Éireann reports increased passenger numbers across its local bus and regional coach networks. RICHARD WALTER

Bus Éireann reports a return to pre-Covid passenger levels across its networks, with 89.5 million passenger journeys in 2022 and high growth in the last quarter

Irish national operator Bus Éireann says it has seen a strong return to pre-Covid passenger levels, achieving 89.5 million passenger journeys for the full year in 2022 despite some ongoing impact of the pandemic in the first two months of the year. In 2021, passenger journeys numbered 57.5 million.
In 2022, Bus Éireann’s buses travelled over 225 million kilometres on more than 220 Bus Éireann and Expressway routes plus over 8,000 additional school routes. The largest increase in passenger journeys was seen on its Navan town bus service, the operator says, which saw a completely new town service funded by the National Transport Authority (NTA) grow passenger numbers by 750% compared to the more limited service available in 2019.

In recent months, the operator reports overall coach and bus passenger numbers to have been 15% higher than they were in 2019. Services which have seen the largest increase in use compared to 2019 include its routes 115 between Mullingar and Dublin and 303 in Limerick city, both with between 40 and 60% more passengers compared to three years earlier.

In 2022, Bus Éireann added over 1.8 million kilometres of additional journeys through a combination of new and enhanced routes under the Irish NTA’s Connecting Ireland Rural Mobility Plan. As well as local routes, Bus Éireann operates Ireland’s Expressway inter-city coach network which has also seen increased demand on services, with routes from Donegal town and Letterkenny to Dublin performing particularly strongly, the operator says.

To support its growth, Bus Éireann hired 215 new drivers in 2022, with recruitment ongoing in 2023. “The exceptional growth in passenger demand for our services is explained by a number of factors,” said Stephen Kent, Bus Éireann Chief Executive. ‘’First, we are operating more and better services following National Transport Authority investment – typically, when additional services are introduced, passenger numbers increase by up to 70% within a year. Second, the Government’s 20% fare reduction and 50% reduction on young adult Leap cards means that public transport represents extraordinary value, bringing fares to what they were 20 years ago, at a time when the cost of motoring is higher than ever and people are facing cost of living pressures. Finally, there is an increasing interest in sustainable modes of transport and some people are very consciously choosing public transport options.”

The operator has seen usage rise by as much as 40-60% on some routes. RICHARD WALTER

A recent survey of 19-23 year olds commissioned by Bus Éireann found that 72% said that they use public transport more now than three years ago. In addition, a school transport scheme which Bus Éireann operates on behalf of the Department of Education has also gone from strength to strength, the company says, with fares removed by Government in July as a cost of living measure leading to unprecedented demand and a 20% increase in the number of students on the services compared to the previous year. Currently, over 150,000 students are carried on its school transport services each school day.

Stephen continued: ‘’2022 has been an exciting year for bus transport in Ireland and we are happy to see so many passengers returning in numbers not seen since the pre-Covid period, with a new generation of bus passengers coming on-board for the first time. With 89.5 million passenger journeys across our services in 2022, covering over 225 million passenger kilometres, Bus Éireann remains Ireland’s leading provider of transport services for our cities, towns and rural communities, with a 91% customer satisfaction level.

“The updated Climate Action Plan shows the Government has ambitious targets for public transport in Ireland. Through continued investment in our services and network and continuing to serve in excess of 90 million passengers – while also increasing our passenger numbers in 2023 – Bus Éireann is well positioned to support this policy and contribute significantly to achieving the targets set out.

“We at Bus Éireann would like to thank all of those who travelled with us in 2022 as we look forward to connecting people across Ireland with who and what matters most to them in 2023.”