Record highs for public transport passenger numbers in Ireland during 2023

The number of passengers using Ireland’s public transport network during 2023 has returned to record highs, according to preliminary figures released by the National Transport Authority (NTA) this week.

Over 308 million passenger journeys were provided by Dublin Bus, Bus Éireann, Iarnród Éireann, Luas, Go-Ahead Ireland and TFI Local Link on ‘Transport for Ireland’ Public Service Obligation (PSO) services last year, making it the busiest ever year for our public transport network. This is the first year ever that passenger numbers on PSO services have exceeded 300 million

The preliminary figures represent an overall 24% increase in passenger numbers during 2023 when compared with the previous year, and a 5% increase above the previous record year in 2019.

Dublin Bus carried over 145 million passengers last year, a 20% increase on the 121 million passengers in 2022.

Bus Éireann served in excess of 44 million passengers during the past twelve months, a significant increase on the 35 million passengers who used its services the previous year.

Go-Ahead Ireland’s Dublin Metropolitan area bus services, served over 16m passengers over the last twelve months compared to 12.5m in 2022.

Luas carried 48.2 million passengers last year, a 25% rise compared to the 38.6 million passengers in 2022.

Preliminary figures from Iarnród Éireann show rail passenger journeys in 2023 also grew significantly, as the post Covid recovery continues. An estimated 45.5 million passenger journeys were made by rail during the past 12 months, up from 35.8 million in 2022.

TFI Local Link regular bus services, connecting towns and townlands in rural Ireland carried 3.2 million passengers in 2023, a 78% increase on the 1.8 million passenger journeys in 2022.  Over sixty new and enhanced services were launched in towns and villages across Ireland, under the Connecting Ireland Rural Mobility Plan last year.  The annual patronage on TFI Local Link services has seen a seven fold increase since 2018.

In July 2023, TFI Local Link Kerry and the NTA implemented two new services on the Ring of Kerry, the 280 (Waterville – Cahersiveen – Killorglin – Killarney) bus service and the 281 (Waterville – Kenmare) bus service. These services considerably increased the public transport offering on the peninsula at all times of the day and week, including improved evening and weekend services. These bus services were designed to integrate with the 270 (Killarney – Skibbereen) Bus Éireann service in Kenmare and the 279 (Tralee – Killorglin – Killarney) Bus Éireann service in Killorglin which were also significantly enhanced by the NTA in June 2023 and December 2023 respectively. These enhancements have proved to be very popular with over 6,800 people using the 280/281 TFI Local Link service in December 2023. In addition, patronage on the 270 Bus Éireann service has increased by 250% from around 2,000 passengers per month in 2022 to approximately 7,000 passengers per month in 2023.

The new TFI Local Link 188 (Athboy – Navan – Drogheda) bus service was launched by Local Link Louth Meath Fingal and the NTA in January 2023, providing connections for small settlements along the corridor, including Duleek, Donore and Kentstown. Patronage on this bus service has grown rapidly over the last 12 months and over 76,000 people have used this service in 2023. In one week alone in December, nearly 2,000 people used this service.

In Dublin, the BusConnects Network Redesign has been a great success, with two phases launched in 2023 – Phase 5a in West Dublin and in November Phase 5b in south Dublin.  Passenger numbers using Phase 5b bus services saw a 6% rise within weeks of the route launch.

Two new town bus services began operation last year in Carlow Town in August and Clonmel got its new town service in December, giving more people the option to use public transport daily.  The number of passengers using both services has grown substantially.  In its first month of operation in December, 14,000 people used the new town service in Clonmel, while 35,000 people are now using the Carlow Town bus service every four week period, since its launch last summer.

Eamon Ryan, Minister for Transport said: Public transport has turned a significant corner this year. Communities up and down the country are now benefiting from the significantly increased and enhanced public transport and the new lower fares we have introduced.   The numbers of people using our buses, trains and trams this year are really encouraging. It shows that when you provide good transport services people flock to them, in both urban and rural areas. This year we will continue to invest in and improve transport services with more town buses, more rural services and progression on transformative Bus Corridors in our cities, now starting to come out of planning.

“As new services are introduced people are talking with their feet and jumping on board which is hugely encouraging as lots of new services have been introduced allowing people to travel sustainably and to leave their cars at home.”

Anne Graham, CEO of the NTA said: “Ireland continues to be a leader in Europe with our public transport passenger numbers growing strongly.

“The NTA has continued to plan, implement and invest in our public transport network and we are seeing the results of that around the country.  Last year we implemented over 60 new and enhanced bus services, connecting towns and villages across Ireland giving our people the option to take public transport to work, school, and college or to leisure appointments.   The passenger numbers speak for themselves.

“In Dublin two significant phases of BusConnects launched and passenger numbers on these routes increased instantly and continues to grow, showing us the demand exists for these more direct, frequent and reliable services.”

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