‘Tough decisions to be made’ to tackle Limerick bus delays

Jess Casey

Reporter:

Jess Casey

‘Tough decisions to be made’ to tackle Limerick bus delays

 LCCC, An Gárda Síochána, Bus Éireann and NTA to work on improving services

THE Council needs to be prepared for “blue murder” when it comes to allocating space for new bus lanes as a way to solve current public transport delays, Limerick City and County Council has been warned.

The council sees dedicated bus corridors, bus lanes with ‘segregated cycling facilities’, as a way to make bus journeys faster and more reliable; However, these measures have been “hampered” due to under-investment, LCCC senior engineer Vincent Murray told councillors at a meeting of the Metropolitan District of Limerick. 

“A lot of the problems along the routes, and the blockages along the way, are because of the absence of dedicated bus corridors,” Mr Murray said. Plans for such proposals have been met with resistance previously, he added. “We have had our battles in the past.” 

An attempt to install a bus corridor in Ballinacurra was met with “blue murder”, Fianna Fáil councillor Kieran O’Hanlon said. “There was blue murder. It went on for months and months. If we are serious about bus corridors, we need to be prepared for that.” 

A joint initiative to address public transport delays is currently being rolled out by LCCC, Bus Éireann, An Garda Síochána and the National Transport Authority, councillors heard at the meeting in City Hall this Tuesday. 

The meeting followed a major Limerick Leader investigation, focusing on current issues with the bus service in Limerick.  Our investigation found that 84% of bus passengers are dissatisfied with Bus Éireann operations across Limerick. Of the 411 people who took part in the survey, just 14 people said their bus arrives on time. 

Our investigation also found that major employers in Limerick have expressed their concerns over the current bus service, and that public transport is a “major impediment” to a new University of Limerick campus in the city centre. 

“Bus Éireann do admit that there are issues,” Mr Murray said. “There are huge traffic delays and another big issue is due to bus stops being inaccessible because of people parking in those spaces.”

LCCC is working with An Garda Síochána to address issues with those parking illegally in bus stops or driving in bus lanes, he added. 

“We need uninterrupted bus corridors,” LCCC director of physical development Brian Kennedy told councillors. Limerick’s population is set to increase by 15% over the next few years, he added. 

“Difficult decisions will have to be made in relation to public transport space. Public transport corridors are a key issue and the transport strategy will deal with that.” 

Public consultation is to begin on the Limerick Metropolitan Area Transport Strategy within the next month, councillors also heard. 

“People want to use a bus service, but we want a bus service that is frequent, reliable and dependable,” said Mayor of Limerick James Collins, who recently met with Bus Éireann to discuss delays with its services. 

Bus Éireann, who have committed to meeting councillors in April, provided a two-page statement to the Council ahead of the Metro meeting. “Bus Éireann would like to apologise to any passengers who may have been frustrated when using our services in recent months,” the statement said.

New timetables are expected to be launched in April, factoring in ‘pinch points’ and traffic congestion. There will also be a more “significant review” looking at routings, frequencies and stops in conjunction with the National Transport Authority, the statement added.

Following the Metro meeting, LCCC announced it is currently looking at developing an ‘East to West’ public transport corridor, serving key destinations like the National Technology Park, the University of Limerick, the city centre and the Raheen Business Park. 

Building this network will require “significant financial investment” and “require tough decisions to be made in relation to assignment of road space to public transport and road improvements,” a LCCC spokesperson said.