Sampling more of the Irish bus network
Posted on September 2, 2018
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Because it is my place of birth and upbringing, my experience of using Ireland’s bus system extends over decades. Even so, it only was during my university years that I started to make use of scheduled bus and coach services like the weekend ones on which I acted as fare collector while at university in Cork. There were occasional journeys on Bus Éireann’s route 51 between Charleville and Cork too but it was while I was in Edinburgh that I made more use of buses. Flights to and from Dublin had me travelling between the city’s airport and Heuston train station by one or more buses. That trend continued throughout the first decade of living in Macclesfield.
Within the last decade, family and business matters saw me change to flying in and out of Shannon and Cork instead since it shortened travel times within Ireland. Service 51, noticeably more regular than during my university days in Cork, became a mainstay since it calls at Shannon, Limerick, Charleville on its journeys between Galway and Cork. Other services feature too like services 13 and 14 from Limerick to Newcastlewest or services 226 and 226A between Cork’s airport and its city centre. Service 226 even allowed a quick visit to Kinsale one day that I had time for it; sadly, the day itself was not sunny with grey clouds filling overhead skies and some rain but it was a good thing to do regardless of the weather.
What has inspired this post though is a recent stay in Galway that allowed me to explore Connemara, the Aran Islands and the Clare coastline around Doolin and the Cliffs of Moher. This escapade added more bus routes to my tally with route 923 operated by Irish Citylink from Galway and Clifden numbering among them. The rest were operated by Bus Éireann and my journeys included Expressway service 64 between Knock Airport and Galway, service 350 between Galway, Doolin and the Cliffs of Moher, service 419 between Galway and Maam Cross as well as service 424 between Galway and Rossaveal. Of these, I only mentioned the sections on which I travelled for route 64 goes between Galway and Derry, route 350 goes between Galway and Ennis, route 419 goes between Galway and Clifden and route 424 goes between Galway and Carraroe. All of these got me where I wanted to be though there were delays to my journeys from Knock Airport to Galway and from Oughterard to Galway, they were not in any way critical.
My general experience of the Irish bus network is that services largely run on time and that any buses are comfortable for travelling. For the latter, it helps that coaches are used on many interurban routes even if the practice adds accessibility constraints though wheelchair lifts are available on most if not all vehicles. Delays caused by slow-moving vehicles like tractors are receding and you never can do anything to avoid a passenger falling ill aboard a bus.
What was problematic was finding out about what bus services. While this was easier for Bus Éireann services, private operator offerings proved more challenging to find unless you learned of their existence either by word of mouth or by seeing their vehicles on the road. Some remained obscure such as those of the now-defunct Swilly but such a thing is not so easy now following the actions of Transport for Ireland. For a start, all bus services are to be numbered but the real bonus is that is a journey finder with timetable information. The latter can be accessed by other services too and the Bus Times website is one of those. There is a lot to be said for drilling into an area to find what services are available at a specific location and it proved invaluable for my recent Irish trip. As long as there is the continued availability of such information, planning of any future Irish hill wandering trips becomes that bit easier and it also helps that the Irish bus network does not alter as rapidly as its British counterparts and that it appears to be efficient too.