Rural transport extension to see 50 new bus services across 19 counties

Pilot scheme to being next month; Independent TDs call it a ‘sop’ to rural Ireland

Envisaged is a total of 188 extra trips a week on the rural transport network. File photograph: Aidan Crawley

Envisaged is a total of 188 extra trips a week on the rural transport network. File photograph: Aidan Crawley

 

An extension of the rural transport programme will see 50 new bus services across 19 counties rolled out as part of a six-month pilot programme, Minister for Transport Shane Ross has announced.

The extension to the rural transport programme comes as Mr Ross accused rural TD of attempting to use “filibuster” tactics block the passage of his latest Road Traffic Bill.

Envisaged is a total of 188 extra trips a week on the rural transport network with 50 new services – including 20 extensions to existing services – operating in some cases up to 11pm on Fridays and Saturdays.

Passengers will pay a nominal fee while travel pass holders and pensioners will travel for free.

Mr Ross said the Bill is aimed at tackling social isolation.

The cost of the move for six months from the end of June to the end of December is estimated at €450,000. At the end of the pilot scheme the take up will be analysed before any decision to continue the scheme is made.

Intending passengers will be offered the facility of booking seats on a range of services whose routes will be subject to demand.

In total, 19 counties have been included in the pilot programme with eight services to be deployed in Co Kerry alone. Mr Ross has said all rural transport services which applied for additional services were facilitated by the pilot programme, as would any late applications received in the coming weeks.

The routes in the 19 counties set to benefit include; Co Wexford (12 routes), Co Kerry (eight routes), Carlow/Kilkenny/Wicklow (six routes), Cavan/Monaghan (five routes), Donegal (four routes), Laois/Offaly (three routes), Cork (three routes), Waterford (three routes), Louth/Meath/Fingal (two routes), Tipperary (two routes) and Kildare (one route).

‘Sop’ to rural Ireland

Meanwhile, Independent TDs have accused Mr Ross of offering a “sop” to rural Ireland in promising the new buses. TDs Michael Fitzmaurice and Michael Healy-Rae said Mr Ross was attempting to bring in new legislation on drink driving that would do little if anything for road safety in rural Ireland, but would have the effect of causing further rural isolation.

Both TDs said Mr Ross’s announcement was an attempt to get rural Fine Gael TDs to support the Government’s latest road safety legislation.

Mr Fitzmaurice who represents the Dáil constituency of Roscommon-Galway said said there were more then 5,100 km of rural roads in Co Galway alone - which meant the Minister’s intervention was minuscule.

In addition, he said many people in rural Ireland would not go out until 10pm or 11pm on a Friday or Saturday night. He said nobody was supporting those who drive “two, three or four times over the limit” but if the Minister wanted to catch these people he would be better advised to increase the numbers of Garda “feet on the street”.

“But that costs money and he can’t get that off Pascal [Donohoe, Minister for Finance] so he is bringing in new laws to make it look like he is busy saving lives”.

‘Placating’ deputies

Mr Fitzmaurice said no less than nine of the new services were destined for Co Kerry which he said was an attempt to “placate” deputies Michael and Danny Healy-Rae who had been critical of the Government’s attempt to bring in a mandatory ban for first offence drink driving offences.

Mr Fitzmaurice said he was one of the TDs accused of “filibustering” in the Dáil to block the new legislation, but he said Mr Ross should be better disposed to listening to what rural TDs were saying.

Michael Healy-Rae also said Mr Ross was attempting to give the appearance of being on a “crusade” against drink driving but was in fact “criminalising” those who allowed their children to drive to work, while driving unaccompanied on a learner’s permit.

He accused Mr Ross of “unparliamentary” performance in accusing him and his fellow rural TDs of being “terrorists” simply because they were doing their job, representing rural Ireland.

“I am doing nothing more than my job and I don’t expect to be treated badly or be made to feel small by a Government Minister”, he said.