Kilkenny looks set to have a brand new bus service up and running on two routes around the city by September, local councillors have heard.
The bus network will be fully subsidised by the State as a Public Service Obligation (PSO).
While exact timetables and routes are still being determined, it is envisaged that the bus routes will both operate two buses per hour, both feeding into a central spine in the city centre. Fares will be in line with similar services elsewhere, while there are also plans in place to introduce a 'Leap' card system.
A presentation was given to the elected members at Friday's meeting of the Kilkenny City Municipal District. Marian Wilson and Paul McGartoll from the National Transport Authority (NTA) said that there is demand for regular public transport in Kilkenny City which is not currently being met.
Ms Wilson told the members that the new bus service must be ambitious, and that it would take “a long, long time for people to realise that the bus is there, to change their behaviour, and maybe consider getting rid of the second car.”
Using data from Census 2011, Mr McGartoll outlined the challenges involved in planning a network for Kilkenny,such as the historic city centre with narrow streets, weight restrictions on High Street, and large retail/business parks to the east and south of the ring road. Data on car ownership shows that more than half of households in the centre of Kilkenny do not have a car, while car ownership is also low in the areas to the west and east of the city centre.
Internal trips account for more than three quarters of all trips originating from the city.
A Kilkenny City service operated by Bernard Kavanagh ceased operating in July. An interim service has since operated eight times a day, Monday to Saturday with an average patronage of 150 trips per week.
The NTA's proposed network design involves two routes — green and red— runing two buses per hour. Both routes will be just under 9km in distance, with an average journey time of around half an hour. It's proposed the green route have 14 stops, and the red route, 19.
The routes are devised with the intention of serving 'areas of high population density, deprivation and low car ownership'. Schools, business and retail parks, and hotels are served.
Mr McGartoll said that the Hebron Industrial Estate is the only major trip attractor not served due to a 'lack of permeability in its layout'.
Bus poles and associated infrastructure will be funded by the NTA, and installed by the local authority. The local authority is also responsible for the design of the stops and any associated highway works.
Bus shelters and Real Time Passenger Information (RTPI) signs will be provided where possible and appropriate.
Unlike an infrastructure project, there is no statutory requirement to carry out formal consultation for the new service. However, the NTA says it will nonetheless be important to fully engage with stakeholders.
An engagement process is now under way, which will involve talking to elected members and officials in the council, local business groups, public organisations such as schools and hospitals, and community groups, such as residents' associations, the elderly, and students.
The NTA's Smarter Travel team will visit schools, colleges and workplaces in the coming weeks and months to spread awareness of the new service and promote the Leap card option.
The tender to operate the service will be advertised through the Official Journal of the EU, and there will follow a time-consuming procurement process with a view to having the service up and running by September of this year.