Commuters hit out as minister says NTA won't police bus lanes
The Bus Connects plan to cure traffic gridlock in Dublin has hit a snag with news that its idea to police bus lanes and issue fines has been knocked back by Transport Minister Shane Ross.
The news has caused anger and disappointment among communities and groups who represent commuters, who argue that gardai who are tasked with traffic management are rarely seen policing bus lanes and motorists' habits won't change as a result.
The controversial €2bn plan aimed to use a 'carrot and stick' approach to reduce the amount of cars on the road.
The 'carrot' was to roll out an efficient and quick bus service in the hope that motorists would migrate to it if it got them to and from their destination quickly without waiting long at bus stops.
The 'stick' was that if motorists continued to drive they would face restrictions on the road such as more bus lanes and more bus priority.
To enforce this, the people behind Bus Connects had hoped they would be given the permission to install cameras in key locations to catch and fine anyone who did not obey the rules.
However, Mr Ross has kicked that idea to touch and said it is the job of gardai to police the roads.
Dublin North-West Social Democrats TD Roisin Shortall had asked Mr Ross if new legislation was being progressed which would give the National Transport Authority (NTA) the power to use automatic number plate recognition to carry out enforcement.
However, his response on the matter was clear.
"Such offences fall within the remit of the fixed charge system, which is administered by the gardai," he said.
"There are no plans at present to confer such an enforcement role on the NTA."
Commenting on the news, Ms Shortall said part of the principal of selling the idea of Bus Connects to the public has to be an assurance that the bus lanes would be free of cars.
"It is a case that the gardai are not especially active in relation to traffic legislation. The numbers in the traffic corps has reduced since the financial crash. You don't often see them policing bus lanes now. It is quite rare," she said.
Ms Shortall said An Garda Siochana needs its resources in fighting crime, and urged Mr Ross to allow the NTA begin bus lane enforcement.
The Dublin Commuter Coalition group expressed its disappointment at Mr Ross's decision in a statement.
"We consider this the Achilles' heel for Bus Connects, and further evidence of the minister's lack of sympathy for the hundreds of thousands of people who depend on the bus network daily," it said.