On Trains & Buses

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Better Times in Ireland

Posted on December 1, 2022

Reading time: 5 minutes.

Bus Éireann Expressway coach, Newcastle West, Co. Limerick, Éire

During the year, I managed to go to Ireland several times. The first was in March when I made a day trip to Dublin. This was my first trip to Ireland following the onset of the pandemic and there was some apprehension involved. However, I needed to get over there to sort out a matter as well as making another step on a return to some sort of normality.

Face mask wearing was starting to slip but still was enforced on aircraft while being mandated at airports. Airports were quiet too though a delay at security clearance in Manchester made for the only run to the gate that I ever needed to do there. Dublin Express connect me with the city centre on busy vehicles, the cause being a reduced service. Aside from that, all worked well and the airport delays of the summer lay ahead of us.

After the confidence-building day trip to Dublin, a longer trip beckoned. That was about tending to more business, completing what lay unfinished from the day trip and other things that needed doing or starting. Flights took me to Shannon and from Cork where things still felt very quiet, and mask wearing was mandated, if only enforced on board aircraft.

The majority of bus and train passengers had dispensed with mask wearing as much as in the England. Remaining more cautious, I persisted and still do so. Aside from any delays, everything was returning to a normal level of service and I got everywhere that I wanted to go. Aside from local services, cashless payments were not only accepted but often were the only way to pay. The exceptions were Local Link services and local services operated by Bus Éireann where the TFI Go app does contactless ticketing, although some bus drivers can be a bit odd about this as I discovered.

The app discovery happened on a journey up to Killaloe, and came in useful for the way back to Limerick from nearby Ballina. Aside from these, Newport, Killarney, Adare and Newcastlewest all featured on my comings and goings. One lesson that I had to learn is that extra time is needed for the connection with the Local Link service to Charleville from Newcastlewest. The express coach service may be late and the Local Link one may not wait for you. Since it was a rainy day, it was just as well that I was able to meet up with my brother because my plans were otherwise disrupted, unless I managed to get a taxi. Getting a soaking while residing somewhere that you had not planned on being, was no help either.

After things working well on my April trip, I embarked on another at the end of May that extended into June. No trains that I used had onboard catering, but rail travel often feels civilised for longer journeys, so long as trains do not fill up with sports supporters. While there was trouble with outbound journeys from Dublin airport due to lack of security staff, my inbound journey was not affected by this. Connection times for my planned train to Tralee were tight because it needs a city crossing. By then though, Dublin Express had increased their service level so that vehicles did not feel as full as on my March day trip.

Otherwise, my experiences were not dissimilar from my April trip, aside from the added reduction of the mask mandate. On flights, that felt a little uncomfortable, but there were no health consequences. My base in Tralee made journeys to Killarney and around the Dingle peninsula more than feasible. If the weather had played ball more than it did, it would have been a distracting time of business and leisure activities like my trip to Limerick was.

August saw me enjoy a holiday in Ireland with bases in Killarney and Cork. The same solidity of the service offering allowed me to make the most of the opportunity. There were timetable restrictions that contained my hiking trips, yet it is possible to work around these. Vehicle tracking could make a fool of one while awaiting an older vehicle so patient is needed if one is not to get stranded. Otherwise, Kenmare, Bantry, Clogheen, Kinsale and Cobh featured as I went here and there using the same knowledge that I had gained on preceding trips. This was a memorable time for all the right reasons and the weather was cooperative, if really starting to heat up near the end.

The last trip of the year encountered mixed weather and shorter hours of daylight, but transportation worked to the same level of success as before. This was in marked contrast to the strikes bedevilling its British counterpart. That make the business trip as much an escape from pessimism as anything else. It also introduced me to Farranfore airport, a quiet place where not much was open when I first arrived. That changed as the time to check in approached. Flying from Kerry to Manchester left me with an impression that this an alternative worth keeping in mind, even if the schedule is limited to certain days of the week and transport connections are more restricted.

In summary, 2022 became a year when I was freer to explore my own country and public transport did not let me down. There was business to do as well and that remains ongoing. More trips should happen in 2023, and I may start to contemplate other shores as well.