Online tool calculates travel times to services


HOW FAR do you live from the nearest emergency hospital, school or Garda station? A new mapping tool launched yesterday allows users to pinpoint an area of the country and find its drive time from local services.

The free online tool has been developed by NUI Maynooth’s National Institute for Regional and Spatial Analysis.

It allows analysis of specific areas across the whole island in terms of accessibility to 24-hour emergency hospitals, fire stations, GP surgeries, dentists, pharmacies, airports, train stations, Garda and PSNI stations and schools.

The Airo/ICLRD accessibility mapping tool shows that if you live in Dublin you are, on average, an eight-minute drive from a 24-hour emergency hospital.

However, if you live in parts of Kerry, north Mayo or southwest Donegal, the travel time to the nearest 24-hour centre could be more than one hour.

The system provides street-level information, and analysis is based on the average drive time of all residential properties within the small area selected.

In general, average travel times to services in Northern Ireland are lower than in the Republic.

The average access to a 24-hour full emergency hospital in Northern Ireland is 16 minutes, while it is 21 minutes in the Republic.

Travel times to the nearest education services, such as primary and secondary schools, are roughly comparable north and south of the Border.

Parts of west Mayo and the Iveragh peninsula in Kerry are some of the least accessible to schools on the island, with many areas more than 30 minutes from the closest secondary school.

Most people on the island are about a seven-minute drive from the nearest secondary school.

Prof Rob Kitchin, director of NIRSA at NUI Maynooth, said mapping tools such as this were critical to policymakers, local authorities, businesses and communities in planning, funding and introducing schemes and initiatives.

“This new mapping system can facilitate evidence-based decisionmaking, a significant advancement on the way planning has been conducted in the past,” he said.

“Planning and decision-making is greatly enhanced by having access to high quality data that is accurate and reliable, and a key aim of the new system is to make evidence around the distribution of services more accessible.”

NUI Maynooth president Prof Philip Nolan said the mapping system was world-class “and it’s great to see a project make such a tangible contribution to the knowledge-base of the country. This new system represents a significant breakthrough in the way that planning can be approached across the island of Ireland.”

The new mapping system was unveiled at the annual conference of the International Centre for Local and Regional Development.

The conference also heard about the new All-Island Deprivation Index developed by the institute with social and economic consultant Trutz Haase.

This maps the island in terms of disadvantage and affluence, with eight points on the spectrum from “extremely disadvantaged” to “extremely affluent”.

The prototype used two censuses conducted at different points in time, 2001 in Northern Ireland and 2006 in the Republic of Ireland.

But, for the first time, the 2011 census was co-ordinated throughout the European Union, so when the index is fully tested and the 2011 data is fully available, it will give a clear picture of the distribution of deprivation on the island of Ireland and throughout Europe.

To use the accessibility mapping tool, see

To see the all-island deprivation index, see