Commuter services should run between rural towns and urban areas from morning to midnight, an Oireachtas committee report on rural transport has recommended.
Regional development authorities, similar to the Western Development Commission, should be replicated to help support other neglected parts of the country, the report said.
The joint Oireachtas Committee on Rural and Community Development’s report on rural transport, published on Wednesday, makes 14 recommendations for improving transport links in rural Ireland and between regions.
It called on the Government to tackle the high cost of insurance and other regulations holding up the rollout of rural community taxi services, as a “matter of urgency”.
The report recommended commuter services should run from early morning up to midnight from rural towns to urban areas, to serve regional cities or destinations with third-level institutions, major businesses, or hospitals.
Greater subsidies to lower the cost of public transport should be provided to rural communities, the report said. This would “immediately address the discrepancy,” where urban transport is currently better subsidised per head of population, it said.
Other recommendations included increasing funding for regional and local roads, and expanding the rural LocalLink bus service, which connects isolated areas to Irish Rail and Bus Éireann routes.
Fine Gael TD Joe Carey, who chairs the committee, said transport investment had focused too heavily on Dublin and the east of the country.
“This has resulted in a situation where all roads lead to the capital but there is poor connectivity between regional areas,” he said.
The committee launched the report at an enterprise centre in Carrick-on-Shannon, at the end of a two-day visit to Co Leitrim.
The report also recommended the Western Railway Corridor, a former rail line running through the west of Ireland, should make up a “significant component” of future transport plans for the region.
Michael Fitzmaurice, Independent TD for Roscommon-Galway, said the report would "gather moss" if Government failed to act on its recommendations. "You can have all the reports in the world, but you need money for the things in them," he said.
Éamon Ó Cuív, Fianna Fáil TD for Galway West, said currently train and bus routes into regional cities were "not geared towards commuting".
Scheduling improvements to have more early morning trains would help “get people out of the cars,” which would be better for the environment, he said.
“Most rural transport is legacy services, designed for another era and not suited to today’s needs,” he said.