Almost a quarter of city bus services in Cork operated by Bus Éireann failed to meet any targets for punctuality last year. New figures published by the National Transport Authority show five out of 21 routes missed the required punctuality rate set for each of 13 four-week periods during 2018.
The 214 service between St Patrick’s Street and Cork University Hospital had an average punctuality rate of 42% and the 223 route from the city centre to Haulbowline had an average punctuality rate of 46%. The others were the 216 Mount Oval-CUH route (44%); the 220 Ovens to Carrigaline service via the city centre (45%) and the 220X from Ovens to Fountainstown (47%).
Low frequency services —the majority of regional city routes operated by Bus Éireann — are classified as punctual if they depart from each bus stop along a route not more than one minute early and not more than 5 minutes and 59 seconds later than the scheduled departure time. Punctuality targets differ throughout the year as traffic conditions have a significant impact on performance.
The targets are set to take into account a number of factors including school terms and weather with traffic congestion levels generally lower during the summer.
The targets last year ranged from 54% in autumn/early winter to 55% in summer.
The NTA has been raising target rates since 2017 and they are set in the range 62-63% for 2019.
Only one Bus Éireann service in Cork met all of its targets on punctuality last year — the 202 route. The service, which runs between the Apple campus in Holyhill and Mahon had an average punctuality rate of 61%.
Other routes which had a comparatively good record for being on time in 2018 were the 226 service from Cork railway station to Kinsale and the 215A from Jacob’s Island to the South Mall which both had an average punctuality rate of 57%.
High-frequency routes — those which operate at least every 15 minutes outside peak periods — are currently excluded from the requirement to meet punctuality targets for the purpose of calculating if Bus Éireann meets the terms of its service contract with the NTA. There are four high frequency routes in Cork including the 202. The others are the 205, 206 and 208.
An NTA spokesperson said it measured punctuality based on the overall bus network operated by Bus Éireann in the main regional cities and towns rather than on individual routes. “If network-wide performance falls below contractual targets in any four-week reporting period, performance payment deductions will apply,” the spokesman said.
Although overall punctuality rates are increasing, Bus Éireann still missed all targets for the first three quarters of 2018, narrowly. The State-owned bus company can lose up to 5% of the value of its annual State contract if it fails to meet punctuality targets – a potential loss of €2.75m last year.
The NTA spokesperson said punctuality performance by Bus Éireann had “recovered significantly” after alterations to timetables during 2018 and exceeded targets towards the end of the year on a network-wide basis.