First ‘drink-link’ bus service launched in Listowel

Pilot scheme offering evening transport service intended to ease rural isolation

Listowel, Co Kerry.  Photograph: Domnick Walsh

Listowel, Co Kerry. Photograph: Domnick Walsh

 

The first of what is hoped to be an evening public transport bus service to tackle rural isolation was launched in Listowel, Co Kerry on Friday.

The evening Local Link service will be open to tourists as well as locals, and not just for going to the local pub.

Minister for Transport Shane Ross was at the launch, encouraged, according to local sources, by criticism of the National Transport Authority’s Local Link pilot scheme by Kerry Independent TD Danny Healy-Rae and a row in the Dáil when the service was announced in May.

The Listowel route is the first of seven planned “drink-link” services in the county.

Mr Ross arrived with a warning to the public “to use it or lose it”.

The seven Kerry routes have been welcomed by the county’s Local Link manager as an injection of “confidence” for rural people.

Carmel Walsh, general manager of Local Link Kerry/Kerry Community Transport, said the new weekend service was an extension of the existing weekday bus network used by 150,000 people a year in the county.

It was a service “open to all”, locals as well as tourists, with up to nine pick-up points and the driver could deviate to pick up and drop off door-to-door, she said.

“Transport is the prerequisite of sustainable rural communities,” Ms Walsh said.

The Listowel route covers two loops from the outskirts of the town into the town centre, starting at 7.30pm and returning from Listowel at 11.15pm on one of the routes, with a later schedule on the second.

Five of the seven evening routes in Kerry will be on Friday nights, one on Sunday and one on Saturday.

Fifty evening services are being launched nationally.

Mr Ross urged the public to use the evening bus service: “I have to stress that this is a pilot project – one that we very much want to succeed and flourish. So I would ask everyone to make use of it, it’s your transport system, developed for your benefit and it is here to serve you.”

The initiative was developed following engagements with various key stakeholders last year, where ways in which social isolation in rural areas can be addressed were looked at, Mr Ross said.

“I asked the NTA to examine extending existing Local Link services under the Rural Transport Programme and we have now added 188 new trips per week to the network of rural transport services nationally,” he said.