The National Bus and Rail Union has called for night-time public transport services and longer, staggered opening hours for retail and hospitality to facilitate the public when Level 5 restrictions are reduced.

NBRU General Secretary Dermot O'Leary warned that the onset of Christmas was set to place even more pressure on the transport system, where capacity is currently reduced to 25% of normal due to Covid-19. 

He forecast that there would be "pent-up demand" from people to access retail and hospitality in the run-up to Christmas, as public health restrictions are somewhat relaxed.

He reiterated the NBRU's long-standing proposal to stagger the opening hours for a variety of services including retail to alleviate peak pressure on transport services.

"The NBRU believes that an elongated spread of the opening of retail and hospitality (subject to a government decision) would make sense, not alone from an economic point of view, but also assisting towards a more streamlined and safer access to our cities/towns/shopping centres," Mr O'Leary said.

"We simply cannot afford, or allow for, additional retail patronage to cause an overload of buses and trains, potentially leading to confrontation between commuters and/or frontline transport staff or create Covid-19 hot spots on public transport," he added.

Mr O'Leary noted that his union had made his proposal in letters to the leaders of all political parties as far back as early May, with a similar submission to the Joint Oireachtas Special Committee on Covid-19.

Mr O'Leary noted that his union had longstanding "seasonal" agreements with the CIE companies for a Dublin Bus Nitelink service, late night DART services and some night services on the Bus Éireann network.

"We believe we can, at short notice (and with government support) produce a one-off bus and train timetable which will facilitate a longer 'shopping spread' ".

The NBRU leader said that frontline transport staff were ready and willing to assist in alleviating the expected "tsunami" of people that will venture out to shop and socialise "in an attempt to make something out of Christmas 2020".