In August 2017, British transport operator Go-Ahead won a contract to operate 24 Dublin Bus routes comprising 10% of the city fleet. All these routes were orbital services, routes which Dublin Bus had sought to sub-contract in 2001. The first service Go-Ahead introduced was the brand new Route 175 service in September 2018, the rest of its routes coming over a transition period which ended on the 24th March 2019 with the acquition of Routes 18 and 76/A. The following outlines the ramp up of Go Ahead operation in Dublin.
When is City West not City West. Go Ahead's Wright Gemini 11550 is seen at the Dublin Bus City West terminus on the first departure on the 9th September 2018. Unfortunately a lack of homework meant I wasn't at the Route 175 terminus, though I wasn't the only one (click on photo for larger version).
Over the next few months Go-Ahead will take over 10% of the Dublin Bus network. Though the majority of the services are former Dublin Bus services, the intention is that this new operator will provide extra capacity. By taking over 10% of the buses of Dublin Bus, Dublin Bus can provide 10% more capacity on its retained services, as well as some new ones. The take over of 10% of Dublin's services by a private operator has long been muted. In fact Dublin Bus themselves tried to subcontract the bulk of these services in Feburary 2001. Today begain the process with Go-Ahead operating a new Route 175, from Citywest to UCD Belfield. Next month on the 7th October, they will take up existing services in Dun Laoghaire and Bray (45A, 59, 63, 75, 111, 184, 185). On the 18th November, northside services are added (17A, 33A, 33B, 102, 104, 220). The final batch to be taken over is on the 20th January with western orbitals/locals, and the inner southside orbitals (17, 18, 76, 76A, 114, 161, 236, 238, 239, 270).
Route 175 operates from CityWest (Kingswood Avenue) to UCD Belfield. The routing is via Tallaght, along the "Green Route" (a term used by South Dublin County Council for the new road from Kiltipper to Brehon Field Road), to Dundrum (serving the interchange) before heading up Taney Road and Mount Anville Road. Taney Road was used during the early years of the current Route 75, however from my knowledge, Mount Anville Road has not been served by a bus (at least not since the 1930s). The map below shows the full routing. It will be an important new service for South Dublin, helping out the often busy Route 75. It continues along the trend of recent new routes and route ammendments to serve universities, a positive focus point for the NTA.
Go-Ahead 11557 is seen at the Kingswood Avenue terminus of Route 175 on the 9th September 2018. This might be remembered as the terminus point for Route 201 and 202 in CityWest (click on photo for larger version).
The livery is pretty much brand new having only appeared in the last week or so. It is much more pleasant in reality than it seems in photos. The previous, expected, livery was blue at the front, and all new buses were delivered in this livery and acquired buses were repainted in it. However, before buses enter service they will be painted in the new yellow front livery, a blend of the NTA and Dublin Bus colours. The interior of these buses is different to those of Dublin Bus, albeit SG427 is a bit of a hybrid. As shown below, there is a new blue moquette on the seats, and a new panelling colour. All the Dublin Bus stops served on route have had their heads replaced (albeit the generic look of them is a bit bland compared to the DB logo), with significant effort put into new stop timetables (albeit with some notable issues with how the timetables are made which will cause confusion into the future (such as using stop names as termini points)). A number of new stops have also been placed along the route, and overall the route was quite prepared for its launch. The first day's service seemed to go off without a hitch.
The interior of the new Go Ahead Geminis.
Dún Laoghaire Routes:
Too new for a fleet number, Go Ahead's Wright Gemini 182-D-473, is seen loading as the first 45A departure from Dún Laoghaire on Marine Road on the 7th October 2018, the first Go Ahead departure from Dún Laoghaire (click on photo for larger version).
Go Ahead took up the first of the former Dublin Bus routes on the 7th October 2018, taking up all local/orbital services which depart Dún Laoghaire, namely the 45A, 59, 63 and 75. The 111 which also serves Dún Laoghaire, but does not terminate there, will be taken up on the 21st October. For the 45A passengers the change is significant with frequency increasing to every 20mins daytime, 30mins off peak. This was noticeable on Sunday morning, with a route that didn't have its first departure till 10am, having a 30min frequency from 0835. For the 63 passengers, weekend service is enhanced from every 45mins to every 30mins. For the 59 passengers there is no change, while for the 75 passengers there is a detour via Dundrum Luas Interchange and Dundrum Main Street, a former section served by the original Route 75 when first introduced. Frequency is broadly similar to the Dublin Bus timetable, so one worries that the extra capacity VTs being replaced from Tallaght in the morning may lead to capacity issues.
Three new route numbers have been brought in, albeit all former departures in the Dublin Bus timetables. The 1 departure each way on the 45A via Shanganagh Cliffs Monday to Saturday will be denoted Route 45B, harking back to the days of Route 45B to Shanganagh Cliffs. The single Route 63 departure each way Monday to Friday will be denoted Route 63A, while Route 75 departures via Airton Road Monday to Saturday will be denoted Route 75A. This is a nice change, however for the Bray change in two weeks time (21st October) this joined up thinking is lacking. Its not clear why Route 185 was chosen for both a route to Shop River and also for the local feeder bus to Palermo, but it always stood out in the Dublin Bus operation as a cause for confusion. Yet, for the 1 departure a day that gets a new Route 63A, or 45B, number, the 185 remains two pretty seperate routes using the same number. Hopefully some consistency will be applied here with a Route 186 for example.
As can be seen, a number of ex Dublin Bus vehicles were used to operate the services on the first day, this no doubt increasing with peak frequency next week. The passing of these older NTA vehicles to Go Ahead allows a more mixed fleet than would otherwise be achieved with a new operation. Dublin Bus is expected to keep a pretty constant fleet size with new buses having replaced these transfers. A wide range of new routes and frequency enhancements will come online over the coming months (see here if you haven't read the list thus far). This already began on the 7th October with a new Route 14 timetable, with significant increases in both weekday and weekend departures. The route is now solely Donnybrook operated, somewhat making up for the loss of these Dún Laoghaire services, along with Ringsend's duties on Route 15 which will transfer in a few weeks. Summerhill's loss of Route 14 services has been offset against the acquisition of Route 120 which they began operating also on the 7th October.
It didn't take long to take over. Go Ahead Wright Gemini 11554, is seen awaiting its next departure on Crofton Road leading a line of Go Ahead buses on the 7th October 2018 (click on photo for larger version).
Go Ahead took over Bray local services 184 and 185 from the 21st October 2018. Interestingly, these routes are operated by single deckers, something which had become such a rarity in Dublin. In fact, full size single deckers went with the VLs in 2009, the WV midibuses and then two solitary WS class midibuses being the total of Dublin single deckers. Single deckers are never an easy choice for any service in Dublin, especially the 184 and 185. Though loadings are generally fine for a single decker, there are departures around school openings that generally require a double-decker, so it will be interesting to see how the single-deckers fair on these routes. Single-deckers are not unusable in Dublin with Routes such as 104 and the Blanchardstown locals destined for single deckers, which will be a perfect fit.
Route 184 hasn't changed in routing however weekend frequency has been significantly increased, from every 60mins on Saturday and every 120mins on Sunday, to every 30mins on both days, matching the mid-week frequency. For local services this makes sense, and is an excellent improvement. The 185 routing has changed somewhat. The Dublin Bus 185 timetable was confusing and had many departures noted as via Palermo. However, the vast majority never operated via Palermo, with only the odd departure going in for example when the short 185s weren't operating. Now all 185 departures go via Palermo, which is a big negative for this route. Bray traffic is notorious, and having every bus loop in and out of this estate for the odd passenger is very negative for Enniskerry bound passengers. Another notable change is the 185 which operated via Powerscourt on a number of departures. This diversion has dissappeared from the timetable, possibly because there is no physical stop where the 185 stopped, and therefore no stop on the RTPI list of stops. On my last ever Dublin Bus 185 journey on Saturday 20th October (the last day Dublin Bus operated the service), no less than 6 passengers got off at Powerscourt. It is a long walk if this loop is not restored. Finally the local service which operated daytime Monday-Saturday on Route 185 to Palermo only has had its hours extended and is now a 7 day operation every 60mins, so this alone should have been sufficient for Palermo. The confusing sharing of number between these routes remains, surely the local service should be given a different number than the Shop River bound services.
Go Ahead Wright Streetlite 12104 on its first day in service about to be the first Go Ahead departure from the Bray Station terminus of Route 184 on the 21st October 2018. 12104 operated the 0750 185 service from Shop River, the first Go Ahead departure on these routes, becoming the first 184 departure from Bray Station at 0823 (click on photo for larger version).
The 184 and 185 were not the only changes. Route 111 also switched over to Go Ahead from the 21st October, and this will be covered in an updated route feature towards the end of the year. The route will be single-decker operated, though Sunday morning allocations were double-deck. For Dublin Bus, Donnybrook began operation of Route 15, taking over Ringsend's boards with Harristown retaining their buses on the route. The 15A/B were rerouted in the city, as was Route 53 (though only Monday-Friday), while Route 1 will get a significant increase in its Monday-Friday service from the 22nd October. I will catch up on these changes at a later point.
Go Ahead Wright Streetlite 12111 about to depart on the first Palermo short Route 185 on the 21st October 2018 at 0900. This bus operated the first 185 from Palermo only, doing a further lap on Palermo before becoming a Route 184 departure which is shown in the first photo above (click on photo for larger version).
New Dún Laoghaire Routes:
As noted in previous updates, the Dún Laoghaire route switch over to Go Ahead resulted in three new route numbers, though the departures had all formerly existed. The 45B is the previous Route 45A departures via Shanganagh Cliffs, 1 service in each direction Monday-Saturday. Route 63A on the other hand is used for the one Route 63 departure in each direction via Foxrock Village. The other route is the 75A, denoting former Route 75 departures via Sandyford Industrial Estate, which I've still to catch, but it's on the list.
North County Dublin Changes:
The 2nd December 2018 brought about another transferral of routes to Go Ahead, with the transfer of Routes 17A, 33A, 33B and 102 from Harristown and Summerhill depots. This is a significant amount of buses, especially the 17A, and probably more so due to the Ballymount depot location of Go Ahead. One would imagine a suitable depot on the northside will be found at the earliest in 2019 to save empty running time to and from the depot. For the most part, the routes have stayed exactly the same, except for the 33A which will be mentioned later. The timetables are more clockface, especially the 102 which was in need of updating, and there are earlier departures especially on Sunday. The 33B has been made more confusing with not all services going to the Burrow. It is time a simple single-direction routing was used in Portrane, Burrow, Brook, Seaview, St. Ita's Hospital, but instead one departure does one thing, the next another. Its a shame it has returned to the confusing timetable that existed in the 90s.
For the most part the morning went off without a hitch. The only exception was the first 0840 102 departure from Sutton Station operated by 12103. This bus unfortunately had a defective scroll and was unable to show Route 102. The driver was helpful and did operate to Dublin Airport as there was a passenger waiting. One issue in general is with the information and the inconsistency of it. The 33A goes to Carlton Court on the timetable not swords. The 17A has Kilbarrack as a display, Howth Junction is shown on the RTPI and Naomh Barrog GAA Club is shown on the timetable. This lact of consistency is unhelpful.
The 33A needs a special mention. When the original tendering list was made, which is over 15 years ago now, the 33A was mentioned as a local route, as it was just that, a feeder service relying on the 41s to bring passengers to the city. Subsequently, the 33A became a rostering service, used when a driver didn't have enough hours to do a full 33. So now the 33A has returned in a somewhat confused way. The 33 still runs, the 33A has been used to increase the basic frequency in these parts to 30mins. This is a very positive change. However, how it has been done is bizarre. There are basically 2 33A routes, once again sharing the same number, whereas the one 33 via Portrane in either direction gets a new running number (33E). One route operates Dublin Airport to Skerries, the other Swords (Airside) to Balbriggan. The reason they didn't go with one simple 33A route appears to be competition on the Airport - Balbriggan route, however what competition the 33A would be to the 101 is not clear with its meandering route via Lusk, Rush and Skerries. The fact Airside is served (on the main road) is that the 33A's operating to Balbriggan actually come out of service from the Airport, picking up from that point. Real joined up thinking from the NTA.
These changes have once again facilitated buses to be added to core services, this time Routes 4, 16, 41/C and 83/A. There is also new Route 40E, Broombridge to Tyrellstown, which will be featured here next week. This shows the consistent investment being made in Dublin's bus services, and for this the NTA should be commended.
Go Ahead 12105 operates the first ever Route 33A from Atrium Road on the 2nd December 2018, the lighting conditions not being perfect. The crowd getting on is interesting and the bus left full! However, the reason was SG99 had suffered a techical fault on Route 41 and these passengers needed to get to Swords. Joined up thinking prevailed and Go Ahead took the passengers onwards to Swords, something that is welcome to see (click on photo for larger version).
Routes 17, 104, 114, 161, 220, 236, 238, 239, 270:
From Sunday the 20th January 2019, Go-Ahead took over 9 routes from Dublin Bus, namely Routes 17, 104, 114, 161, 220, 236, 238, 239 and Route 270. New route numbers (17C, 17D, 220A, 236A) will also be used to designate variants of the above routes. Routes 104, 220 and the Blanchardstown services (236, 238, 239, 270) are single deck operated, while the 17/C/D, 114 and 161 are double-deck interworked services. The 104 and 220 are also interworked, with Route 220 departures operating Ladyswell to DCU, changing route number and heading to Clontarf Road as Route 104, and incredible journey. The same is true for the 17s and 114, it being noticeable that there are many Sunday departures from Ticknock before the first departure from Blackrock on Route 114, because these early buses from Ticknock then head out for Rialto.
The 104 Clontarf terminus has been changed to Clontarf Road Dart Station, moving away from Clontarf Bus Depot which was always going to have to change. The new route heads from the station direct to Castle Avenue then proceeds on the former routing. This routing avoids the Clontarf Village at Vernon Avenue, which had been a busy stop for the service. A routing via Clontarf Road to Seafield Road East would have been a better routing in my opinion. Weekend frequency has been doubled which is a good change. The Clontarf Road Dart Station terminus is purpose built from the 103/104 days, with a bus gate allowing buses to exit onto Alfie Byrne Road. This bus gate however seriously delayed the first departure, meaning the first 220 from DCU did not operate.
The 220 has been extended to DCU. From Lady's Well the route is unchanged all the way to the former Shangan Road terminus, however the new routing loops at this former terminus back out onto the Ballymun Road to DCU, sharing a terminus with Route 104. Frequency has been improved with buses running every hour. The solitary service via Clonsilla Road and Coolmine in each direction is given a new Route 220A designation, a useful change given this bus doesn't serve Blanchardstown Shopping Centre.
The Blanchardstown local services (236, 238, 270) have remained pretty much unchanged. The 239 is now a 7-day operation, an important change missed from the publicity material. It also runs every 60mins, removing the large gaps in service that were in the former timetable. The 236 remains Monday-Friday only, however a new Route 236A operates more direct from Blanchardstown Centre to Damastown via Tyrellstown only (not Ballycoolin) on return services which had previously ran special in the Dublin Bus timetable. The 238 also gets later departures, though retains its former frequency, as does the 270.
On the south-side, Route 17 has moved to Go-Ahead. The service is now every 20mins daytime, a great improvement assuming reliability can be maintained. Two new designations have been introduced, Route 17C to designate departures not via UCD, and Route 17D for short services between Dundrum and Rialto. It would be hoped that when the Owenstown Park bus gate is restored that the 17 could go via UCD 7 days a week, as many students live on campus and studying is often a 7-day occupation. The 114 now gets a Sunday service, a route which from inception never had a Sunday service. The 161 routing remains unchanged however instead of it being a rush-hour only service, a daytime service every 90mins has been introduced. It remains a Monday-Friday service only. It keeps the former terminus at Rockbrook, a change from Tibradden being introduced recently by Dublin Bus. Given the buses proceed to Tibradden in any case, it seems wasteful that they do not do so in service.
Go Ahead 11556 is seen at the Blackrock terminus of Route 17 operating a 17C departure from Rialto on the 20th January 2019. The first 17 departure will actually operate on the 21st January given the lack of UCD services on a Sunday (click on photo for larger version).
These changes are a considerable step towards Go-Ahead assuming control of all their awarded services. The 18 and 76/A remain the only routes still outstadning, though this last round was not part of the original plan. This has held up Dublin Bus introducing a new Route 155 from Bray Station to Ikea. Though Dublin Bus have been able to introduce more reliable operations on Routes 11, 54A and the 66 group, extending Route 26 to Liffey Valley and introducing a new Route 66E from Maynooth to Merrion Square via Glen Easton. For the first time, Route 66B has gained a Sunday service. All of this shows the positive expansion occuring in Dublin's Bus services.
Go Ahead 11542, former SG314, is seen at the Rockview terminus of Route 114 on the 20th January 2019, a terminus it no doubt used when both the route and this bus were in Donnybrook (click on photo for larger version).
Routes 18, 76, 76A:
The last route changeover occurred on the 24th March 2019 with the switchover of routes 18 (from Donnybrook Garage) and 76/A (from Conyngham Road). Like the 17 and 45A before, there has been significant increase in the frequency of the routes, however there were no change of route on either service. The 18 is now a very consistent 20min frequency, whereas the Dublin Bus timetable was a little more irregular, though often had a 25min headway weekdays, 30mins Saturday and 40 mins on Sunday.
The 76 also has a 20min frequency Monday-Sunday. The weekday Dublin Bus timetable had a 20min headway, though this frequency is maintained into the evening under the new timetable. On Saturday and Sunday the frequency is increased from the former 30min frequency provided by Dublin Bus. The 76A remains a peak-hour only route, which is a surprise, though there are more departures in the new timetable. It's understood that 76A departures reaching Blanchardstown Centre will operate a lap on Route 236/236A before returning to The Square.
Go Ahead 12137 having completed it's half lap on the first 18 departure from Sandymount is seen operating its next departure, the 0931 Route 76 from West County Hotel, on Orchard Lane, Clondalkin, on the 24th March 2019 (click on photo for larger version).
The routes are operated together, in much the same way as we've seen with Dún Laoghaire routes and the 220/104 services. The observations on Sunday morning showed buses doing a half lap on say Route 18 from Sandymount to Old Lucan Road, then special to West County, then a full lap on Route 76. Likewise buses coming from The Square would head special to the Old Lucan Road to operate a lap on Route 18. The allocation is understood to be double-decker, though there were a number of single-deckers allocated to the Sunday morning boards on these routes.
The acquisition of Routes 18 and 76/A has allowed Dublin Bus to introduce Route 155 from Bray Station to Ikea, which operates every 20mins 7 days a week, and to improve services on Routes 13, 25A/B, 38/A, 39/A and 70. Like other improvements these services have seen frequency increases principally in the evenings and at weekends.
Sometimes the sun is against you. Go Ahead 11518, former SG112, is seen at The Square terminus of Route 76, about to operate the 0920 departure to Chapelizod on the 24th March 2019 (click on photo for larger version).