Pensioners in rural areas 'should get free taxis'
THE elderly should be given taxi vouchers to allow them to travel for free in rural parts of the country poorly served by public transport, according to an Oireachtas committee.
And it has emerged that the National Transport Authority (NTA) has "no role" in ensuring that a rural transport scheme is rolled out across the country.
Yesterday, the Dail environment committee was told that the NTA was only tasked with operating in the greater Dublin area and in counties Dublin, Kildare, Meath and Wicklow.
Chief executive Gerry Murphy said that although the Department of Transport was responsible for determining policy and funding rural transport, state agency Pobal was responsible for overseeing the programme. "The NTA does not currently have any functions in relation to rural transport," Mr Murphy said.
His comments came just hours after the Dail Committee on Arts, Sport, Tourism, Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs published a report on rural transport provision, which recommended that a new authority be established to roll out rural transport schemes.
The report found that 40pc of the population, 1.6 million people, lived in rural Ireland. Of these, 200,000 were 65 years or older. Up to 450,000 could have "unmet" transport needs by 2021. It recommended the introduction of taxi vouchers for older people in rural areas.