Minister says passengers on public transport likely to be asked to wear masks

Covid-19-hit public transport services will be bailed out and services kept running, Transport Minister Shane Ross has pledged.

Covid-19-hit public transport services will be bailed out and services kept running, Transport Minister Shane Ross has pledged.

Taking Dáil questions on responses to the pandemic, Mr Ross also confirmed that passengers on services next week would likely be asked to wear masks.

The questions come amid uncertainty on how transport services will be affected and what numbers may use them when some virus restrictions are lifted next week.

But in his opening, Mr Ross confirmed that loss-making services would be saved.

A collapse in passenger numbers saw CIE write to Mr Ross last week warning of the dire financial situation facing companies such as Dublin Bus, Bus Eireann, and Iarnrod Eireann.

Some 90% in passenger numbers and fare revenue has collapsed due to Covid-19.

Speaking in the Dail, Mr Ross said: “At home the public transport system is a critical part of the plan for reopening of the economy. It is inconceivable that public transport should not function properly in the present crisis.

Therefore, I can confirm to the house that the government will provide the necessary additional funding to continue those services, despite the drop in fare income.

"My Department is working closely with the NTA and DPER to assess and quantify this additional funding requirement.”

Mr Ross also confirmed that the public are likely to be asked to wear masks or face coverings next week as the country prepares to enter the first phase of lifting lockdown measures.

The State was “in the dark” about the financing and operation of transport services going forward, admitted Mr Ross.

Social distancing on transport services next week would have to be monitored and the demand for buses and trains remained unknown, TDs were told.

"We don't know if people will be frightened [to use them] or whether they won't or whether they will instead go by car,” said Mr Ross.

But Mr Ross also confirmed that Dublin City Council plans to widen pedestrian areas in the city and free up space would be mirrored in Cork, Galway, Limerick and Waterford in the weeks ahead.

The Dublin draft plan on widening areas for walkers and cyclists would be released in the coming days, he also said.

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