By Aidan Crowley
Aidan Crowley details of how commuter traffic across the country has barely decreased since the Government asked people to return to remote working last month.
Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII) has recently confirmed that the number of cars on the Irish road network is within 1% of pre-pandemic levels. On Thursday 11th November, the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) strongly advised the government that people continue to work from home, where possible and that all employers should be supportive of the move.
A few days later, Taoiseach Michael Martin, announced a series of measures aimed at slowing-down the spread of Covid-19, including the recommendation that people work from home unless it is absolutely necessary that they attend their workplace in person.
Speaking on RTE Radio One’s Morning Ireland programme, TII’s Communications Manager, Sean O’ Neill, said: “There has been a shift in traffic movements. In the full cycle of a day, we are only down about 1% on the national network when compared to pre-pandemic levels.”
More in-depth figures from TII illustrate that between the hours of 7.00 am and 10.00 am, a time when many people travel to work, there has been little change in the numbers of cars on the road, when the days before and after the Government’s announcement about the return to remote working are compared.
“Right across the country, there is a minor decrease in the percentage range of about 2-3%, but we still have a lot of traffic out there right now. We don’t see a massive decrease,” said Mr. O’Neill.
“If you look at the time of travel, between 7.00 am and 10.00 am, those are the peak times in the morning and are the times when, more than likely, people are going to work,” he added.
At the end of last month, TII’s National Road Car Traffic Report showed that there were 21,347 cars on the M50 at junctions 6 and 7, compared to 23,453 on Thursday 11th November. On junctions 1 and 2 of the M50, near Dublin airport, a total of 18,,848 cars were recorded on Tuesday 30th November, compared to 20,266 on the iith November.
The report showed overall decreases in morning traffic volumes, compared to a week earlier and a substantial increase, as compared to traffic volumes to the same day in 2020.
Traffic volumes on the radical routes into Dublin:
Comparisons with 23rd November 2021:
-2% on the M1 at M50 to Dublin Airport.
-3% on the N7 at Citywest.
-1% on the M11 at Bray.
-4% on the M4 at Celbridge-Maynooth.
Comparisons with 23rd November 2020:
+11% on the M1 at M50 to Dublin Airport.
+7% on the N7 at Citywest.
+11% on the M11 at Bray.
+11% on the M4 at Celbridge-Maynooth.
The M50 (N3 Navan Road to N4 Galway Road) shows a -4% change, compared with the same day in 2020.
In the case of the regional cities, the following are the changes in car traffic volumes on Wednesday 1st December, as compared with Tuesday 23rd November:
-5% – N6 Galway.
-3% – N40 Cork.
-3% – M9 Waterford.
-4% – M7 Limerick.
Comparisons with 23rd November 2020:
-6% – N6 Galway.
-7% – N40 Cork.
+4% – M9 Waterford.
+10% – M7 Limerick.
Passenger numbers for public service transport operators, including Dublin Bus, Bus Eireann, Iarnrod Eireann (Irish Rail), Luas, regional bus services and local link services, also saw small decreases since the announcement on remote working. The National Transport Authority (NTA) figures for Thursday 11th November, show that 655,000 people used public transport on that day all across Ireland, compared to 637,000 on Thursday 25th November.
In Dublin city, there were similar decreases. About 350,000 passengers used these transport services, on Thursday 25th November, as compared to 369,000 on Thursday 11th November. Director of Public Transport Services with the NTA, Tim Gaston, said that the figures are unsurprising.
“We have seen a slight decrease in people using public transport, with more office workers not coming into the office and working from home, but interestingly, people are still using public transport for lots of other things. At weekends, we are almost as busy as we were pre-Covid in many parts of the network,” said Mr. Gaston.
“Commuter services would be the hardest hit. Irish Rail, over the last two weeks, would have seen a 10% or more reduction,” he added.
NTA figures also reveal that there was a significant drop in Luas passenger numbers, with 96,704 using the service on Thursday 25th November, compared to about 107,236 on thursday 11th november. The average daily passenger number was about 120,000 , before the onset of the pandemic.
Luas operator, Transdev, spokesperson, Dervla Brophy said: “Numbers have dropped. We have noticed a small difference between this time and a number of weeks ago, where people are obviously heeding the rules to work from home. However, whilst it’s a small drop, it’s a change in the pattern of people’s travel. It is no longer as crowded in peak timein the morning as it was in the past.”
Iarnrod Eireann experienced a decline in commuter passenger numbers of about 10% in the past two weeks. It had 83,000 passengers using its services on Thursday 11th November, compared to 76,000 on Thursday 25th November. Dublin Bus saw 314,000 passengers use their services on Thursday 25th November, compared to 331,000 on Thursday 11th November.
Footfall in Dublin city centre, during the first week of November, was 2.3 million. A spokesperson for Dublin Town, which represents city centre traders, said that this represents a real drop in trade, as footfall should be increasing during the run-up to Christmas. They added that as more workers are working remotely, this is having a major impact on business trading in the city centre, in what is traditionally its busiest time of the year.