Public transport journeys exceed pre-pandemic levels in latest figures

Private car use lags behind as bus journeys in Dublin and rest of country rush ahead of previous numbers

The number of public transport journeys exceeded pre-pandemic levels in February according to figures released on Tuesday by the Central Statistics Office (CSO).

But while bus trips increased, private car use remained below pre-pandemic levels.

The number of Luas and bus journeys exceeded pre-pandemic figures, with the figure for bus journeys outside Dublin 31 per cent higher compared to the same week in 2019.

For that same final week in February, Dublin saw an increase in bus journeys of 10 per cent compared to the same time frame in 2019. Luas journeys in the capital for February also went up compared to pre-pandemic levels, but rail trips remained below what was seen in 2019.


At no point in 2022 had public transport volume matched the pre-pandemic figures of 2019, in Dublin or the rest of the country.

The statistical agency also indicated in its latest transport bulletin that the number of passengers passing through Dublin Airport last month was twice the number for February 2022. Just over 2.3 million people passed through Dublin Airport last month, an increase of two per cent from February 2019.

Private cars

While public transport usage increased, the volume of private cars on roads across the country remained below pre-pandemic levels. For the last week of February, both in Dublin and at other regional sites a two per cent decrease was recorded compared to February 2020, before the first lockdown came into effect.

Fewer cars on the roads translated to lower quantities of fuel consumption. In January 2023, clearances of petrol declined by seven per cent from the 2020 figure, while the same number for diesel was eight per cent. Compared to January 2022, clearances of both petrol (10 per cent) and diesel (four per cent) increased in 2023.

Compared with February 2022, there was a three per cent decrease in the licensing of new private cars and an increase of one per cent for used private cars. In data which the CSO describes as “provisional”, there were 13 deaths on Irish roads in February 2023. This is a reduction from 20 deaths in January 2023.

International travel

Outside of Dublin, there was a nine per cent increase of heavy goods vehicles (HGVs) on roads during the last week of February 2023 compared to the same week in 2020. The capital also saw an increase, albeit a smaller one at two per cent.

At 17 per cent, Shannon Airport saw the largest increase in passengers in February 2023 compared to 2019, while Dublin (two per cent) and Cork (five per cent) also recorded increases. Only Knock airport had a larger number of passengers in February 2019 compared to this year as the number of those travelling dwindled by four per cent. Data for Kerry airport was not available at the time of publication.

In total, there were 2,336,794 passengers handled by Dublin, Cork, Shannon and Knock airports in February 2023, an increase of three per cent.

Nathan Johns

Nathan Johns

Nathan Johns is an Irish Times journalist