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Penneys latest to close doors as buses set to chop services

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Shoppers wearing masks on Henry Street. Photo: Colin Keegan / Collins Dublin

Shoppers wearing masks on Henry Street. Photo: Colin Keegan / Collins Dublin

Colin Keegan

Shoppers wearing masks on Henry Street. Photo: Colin Keegan / Collins Dublin

Plans for public transport timetables to be reduced to Saturday or even Sunday schedules are under consideration as the coronavirus crisis deepens.

It comes as Penneys announced it is closing all stores in Ireland, joining Arnotts and Brown Thomas in the list of major retailers that are temporarily shutting their doors.

There is expected to be a fall in demand for trains and buses as people work from home and practise social distancing.

It is understood that the plans to potentially scale back bus and train timetables have been discussed at meetings between the National Transport Authority (NTA) and the Department of Transport.

Campaign

There is no set day for when timetables could be cut back and it would also be dependent on the expert advice being provided by the public health authorities. There will be a public awareness campaign if and when if kicks in.

The aim is that, rather than arbitrarily cutting individual train or bus times, the public could follow the set Saturday timetables that already exist.

The further reduced Sunday timetables could be brought in if demand falls further.

Sources stressed that public transport will continue to run so that people can travel to avail of essential services like shops and pharmacies and so that those who need to can go to work.

Other contingency plans involve ensuring there is cover at rail control centres if members of staff contract the virus.

The NTA is said to be meeting daily to consider the impact of the virus on the transport system.

A statement from the NTA last night said all public transport services continue to operate as normal throughout the country with the exception of a limited number of commercial operators.

It added that contingency plans are "kept under constant review".

"Any actions being taken by the NTA and public transport operators will be guided by the national public health emergency team and the advice of the Chief Medical Officer," the statement said.

A spokesperson for Luas operator Transdev said a full tram service was in place and "we intend to keep the maximum service in operation".

"The service is, however, under continuous review," she added.

Separately, budget fashion chain Penneys announced it would be closing its Irish stores until further notice.

It is understood that some 10,000 staff will be laid off with immediate effect. They will be paid full wages for two weeks before the matter is reviewed.

Meanwhile, all Brown Thomas, BT2 and Arnotts stores in Ireland closed from 5pm yesterday until further notice because of the coronavirus outbreak.

Staff wages will continue to paid while the stores are closed.

Brown Thomas, which is part of Selfridges Group, has shops in cities around the country.

Flagship

As well as its flagship store on Grafton street, there are also Brown Thomas shops in Cork, Limerick and Galway.

In addition, BT2 has stores in Dundrum Shopping Centre and Blanchardstown Shopping Centre, while Arnotts is on Dublin's Henry Street.

A spokesperson for the company said its priority remains the health, safety and wellbeing of its customers, team members and the wider community "during these testing times".

"We have been closely monitoring this dynamic situation, including the recommendations and requirements being issued by the HSE and all other relevant authorities," the spokesperson said.

"As a result, we have taken the decision to temporarily close all Brown Thomas, BT2 and Arnotts physical stores until further notice."

The company's online stores remain operational.

It is business as usual at the popular designer retail outlet Kildare Village despite the coronavirus outbreak.

Outlet owner Value Retail Dublin has moved to reassure customers that it is constantly monitoring updates from health authorities, despite criticism by customers on social media over the village staying open.

It is estimated that more than one million people visit the outlet annually.

A spokesperson for the company said: "In light of the recent outbreak of the coronavirus, we are monitoring the situation closely.

Online

"As well as following the guidance from the World Health Organisation we will be taking any measures as advised by government and expert authorities."

Elsewhere business group Dublin Chamber called on Irish consumers to look local first when shopping online over the coming days and weeks.

Spokesman Graeme McQueen said: "Please look local first. The doors of many Irish retailers may be closed, but most have an online presence."