Ireland’s bus ridership returns to pre-pandemic levels in 2022

Posted: 8 February 2023 | | No comments yet

With 249 million passenger journeys having taken place in 2022, the latest figures put Ireland’s public transport ridership recovery at 98% of pre-pandemic levels.

Ireland's bus ridership returns to pre-pandemic levels in 2022

Credit: Dublin Bus

Transport for Ireland has announced that passenger numbers on the country’s subsidised public transport network have largely recovered to pre-pandemic levels, according to preliminary figures for 2022 published by the National Transport Authority (NTA).

Over 249 million passenger journeys have been provided by Dublin Bus, Bus Éireann, Iarnród Éireann, Luas, Go-Ahead Ireland and Local Link on ‘Transport for Ireland’ Public Service Obligation (PSO) services in 2022.

The figures show that passengers have returned to public transport in large numbers following the lifting of remaining COVID-19 restrictions throughout the year.

While the 249 million is lower than the 292 million that had been carried in 2019, by the end of 2022, passenger numbers were close to and in some cases, above pre-pandemic levels. In November 2019, a total of 24.5 million journeys had been made on public transport, close to the 24 million journeys that had been recorded in November 2022, the latest month for which comparable data is available, representing a 98% recovery.

Bus Eireann PSO services have fared particularly well. In November 2022, the company had carried 3.5 million passengers, compared to 3.3 million in the same period in 2019. This represents a recovery of 105%, with Bus Eireann having carried a total of 33.7 million in 2022, compared to 39.9 million in 2019.

Getting passengers back on-board: Ireland’s National Transport Authority’s road to recovery

Similarly, Dublin Bus has returned to pre-pandemic levels, having carried 11.56 million passengers in November 2022, a slight increase on the 11.54 million figure for the same period in 2019. The company had carried a total of 121 million passengers in 2022.

Although, Irish Rail passenger numbers have not yet returned to pre-COVID levels, the gap between 2019 and 2022 figures have narrowed every month in 2022. In November 2022, the company carried 3.4 million passengers compared to four million in November 2019, an 85% recovery. The company had carried a total of 35.8 million passengers in 2022 compared to 50.1 million in 2019.

Furthermore, passenger numbers on LocalLink services in rural Ireland have increased to a greater extent than all the others. The annual figure in 2019 was 2.5 million passengers, but in 2022, this had increased to 2.8 million, a recovery of 112%.

“These figures are very encouraging and are a testament both to the work being done by the operators and their staff, and to the faith that our customers have in the public transport offering in Ireland. While other jurisdictions dramatically scaled back public transport services in response to the COVID pandemic, here service levels remained largely intact,” said NTA CEO Anne Graham. “We have also witnessed a change in the travel patterns of people with fewer journeys being made at peaks, and more journeys now being made during off-peak periods. It is also clear that customers have also responded positively to the improved service levels that were introduced in 2021 and 2022.”

Eamon Ryan, Minister for Transport, said: “Looking back, 2022 was a remarkable year of growth for public transport in Ireland. What makes it even more remarkable, however, is the post-pandemic bounce-back which makes Ireland a new leader in public transport provision and confidence. We are an outlier for all the right reasons when it comes to public transport. We did a number of really important things. We not just kept public transport running throughout the pandemic, we improved and strengthened it, developing new routes and introducing a range of new fare offers which meant that people can now travel on quality public transport for less.”