Andy Edwards: buses are a vital ingredient in Ireland’s climate action plan

Andy Edwards is Managing Director of Go-Ahead Ireland

Each nation must determine its own route to net zero. But that doesn’t mean we can’t share tips with our neighbours. Ireland’s Climate Action Plan takes a different approach to the UK’s Transport Decarbonisation Plan, but will they reach their destination?

The UK and Ireland both intend to reach net zero by 2050. Ireland envisages cutting transport emissions by between 42% and 50% by 2030 and the UK Government expects to reduce bus and coach emissions by just under a third.

A blend of walking, cycling and public transport, especially in our towns and cities, is universally seen as an essential ingredient to tackling transport emissions. Ireland’s Climate Action Plan recognises this, by aiming for almost 200 million additional such journeys per year while the UK aim is to “make public transport, cycling and walking the natural first choice for all who can take it”.  

Small changes can make a big difference. Measures that prioritise active travel and public transport can reduce road congestion, making journeys faster and more reliable. Momentum can quickly build: academic studies have found that a 10% increase in bus journey times through, for example, a new bus lanes, can lead to a 10% rise in passengers.

More customers lead to new services and investment in modern rolling stock, ultimately making public transport more attractive and benefiting climate change goals. 

London Travel Watch has launched a “Free The Bus” campaign, pushing for measures to increase the average speed of buses in central London, which languished at just 9.3mph before the pandemic. The campaign demonstrates the importance of keeping public transport moving – and the benefits in efficiency and additional revenue.

In Dublin, a redesign of the city’s transport network, known as Bus Connects, will be extremely important in the coming years with better connectivity and more bus priority to support customer growth and the climate action plan.

Technology plays a role too. Ireland’s ambition to make all buses electric by 2035 matches Go-Ahead’s. The UK will shortly consult on a plan to ban the sale of diesel buses.

Early action to invest in zero emission vehicles is sensible, especially digital connectivity and ever better integration of transport and fares.  Go-Ahead Ireland and Dublin Bus operate a fleet of over 1,200 buses in and to Dublin, but there are half a million private cars registered in Dublin alone. So using public transport can reduce personal carbon emissions, stimulate investment in new zero emission buses and defer costly new car purchases. Buses will be vital in achieving a Government ambition to have another 500,000 extra walking, cycling and public transport journeys per day by 2030.

More creative solutions are needed to serve rural communities. A project called Connecting Ireland will help increase the reach of public transport into rural communities.  The UK’s rural transport strategy is due out next year. Encouraging greener travel in more dispersed communities needs a broad range of initiatives, such as integrated and competitively-priced ticketing, provision of on demand services, greater use of shared vehicles and micromobility, and targeted help for people at risk of marginalisation.

Across Go-Ahead’s international network, and with our partners at the National Transport Authority and Dublin Bus, we are continually learning how we can provide the best possible services to our customers, in the right place and the right time.

Looking at the energy and commitment of my team and our partners in Government, I’m confident the plans set the right direction to achieving our climate goals, and we have proudly achieved ISO140001 & ISO500001 this year to give us the solid foundation we need to support and deliver our best practice in environmental and energy management.  We are changing our business models to run zero emission services linked closely with walking, cycling and rail initiatives too. Together, customers will have access to integrated and zero emission services. There’s no time to waste - get on board.