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With the introduction, earlier this year, of Ireland’s first 24-hour bus service, Bus Éireann - in conjunction with the National Transport Authority (NTA) - broke new ground.
However, that’s not all - the thriving transport company has also hired more staff, introduced a new fleet of high-capacity buses, and improved and expanded its service across a range of areas.
The pioneering new 24-hour 220 service, which not only provides important connections between Carrigaline, Ballincollig and Cork city but has also doubled its frequency to every 15 minutes, received a resounding stamp of approval from passengers, who have voted with their feet - customer journeys on this route are up by more than 70%.
As Ger Gahon, Bus Éireann's Assistant Services Manager, explains, the new service, which covers a wide geographical area stretching from Ovens (EMC) to Ballincollig, Cork City Centre, Maryborough Hill and Carrigaline, has proved to have something for everybody:
“We have a lot of people coming into town on those nights and leaving again at 1am or 2am or 3am," said Ger Gahon. "In fact, the demand is so strong that we have had to put on extra services, so it’s been very well received, both by ordinary passengers and by students in particular, who are thriving on it,” declares Ger, who oversees some 350 Bus Éireann staff members throughout the Cork region. He describes the more than 70% growth in passengers on the route as “phenomenal”.
Over the coming year, says Ger, Bus Éireann also plans to recruit more drivers: “This should improve services to customers in Cork. Ongoing discussions are taking place with the NTA that will further improve Cork city services over the next 12 months.”
Bus Éireann, which now carries an average of 50,000 passengers throughout the Cork region every day, is thriving. This year the company has seen customer journeys in Cork city grow by 14% and figures show that its contribution to the local economy tops €25 million.
The company, which employs more than 600 staff in the Cork region, recruited another 150 drivers over the period since January 2018 and this year, as Ger Gahon has pointed out, introduced a new fleet of 19 double-deck or high-capacity buses.
But that’s not all - Bus Éireann has also received the thumbs up from happy passengers following the introduction of a brand new route only last month, the 225, linking Haulbowline with Ringaskiddy, Carrigaline and Cork Airport.
The 225, which offers high-frequency services to and from the airport every 30 minutes throughout the day, provides connectivity between Carrigaline and Ringaskiddy with connections available from Cork Airport to Kinsale and the city centre, and from Carrigaline to the city centre.
The service, observes Ger, has been well received by members of the public. Customer usage is comfortably in line with expectations and the 225 service is gearing up for an extremely busy festive season:
“This service is still bedding in, but building very steadily and is receiving positive passenger feedback,” he reports.
“This service, which takes in Ringaskiddy, Carrigaline, Ballygarvan and the airport, has been a very welcome introduction for people in all of these areas.
“They now have direct access to the airport. This is an extra service that did not exist before, plus there are connections from the 225 to the 226 that will bring you right into town,” explains Ger.
Meanwhile, he points out, the extension of the busy 216 route has been very well received:
“This service travels from Cork University Hospital into town, to Mount Oval and from there on to the Ringaskiddy Road, serving Passage West and Monkstown.
“There are now three buses per hour on this route instead of just one, as there are two Number 216 buses and one Number 223 bus every hour.
“This is proving very popular with passengers, and there is far more frequency from Douglas to the city centre,” he says, adding that these improvements are “all in line with the ongoing improvements to the bus service in Cork; new routes, extended routes and the use of new high-capacity buses - double deck buses - which can carry 78 passengers instead of 62.”
*Bus Éireann has added additional late-night services to Middleton and Blarney on Route 215 and 261 on Friday the 6th, Saturday 7th, Friday the 13th, Saturday the 14th, Friday the 20th and Saturday the 21st of December.
The pick-up is from St Patrick’s Street only and services will depart to Middleton and Blarney at 01:00, 02:00 and 03:00 hours.
If you’re heading into Cork City for some last-minute Christmas shopping, then the annual Seasonal Park & Ride from County Hall in Cork might be the perfect route for you.
This service operates every 15 minutes from 09.30 to 20.15 on Saturday and 10.45 to 20.30 on Sundays, until December 21st with the exception of Sunday, 22nd December, where it will close at 18.30.