Plan to extend evening bus services on 44 rural routes
Rural bus routes in 15 counties should be extended in the evenings to help combat feelings of isolation in country areas, said Fine Gael chairperson Martin Heydon.
A €1m pilot scheme to boost night time services on 44 routes was proposed by Deputy Heydon, a TD in Kildare South.
He is proposing that extended bus services be offered in Kildare, Kerry, Cork, Limerick, Tipperary, Donegal, Waterford, Wexford, Laois, Offaly, Cavan, Monaghan, Longford, Meath and Dublin on a trial basis.
The National Transport Authority is consulting local link companies to identify other existing routes, he said.
"The extensive pilot scheme is not a silver bullet, but it is a very important step in addressing isolation in rural areas. If the pilot scheme is used, it could see evening routes extended nationwide," he said.
"Currently, we believe this will cost around €1m to get the 44 routes underway.
"It will be up to communities to invest in the scheme to make it viable, but so much of what is good about rural transport is community-led, and because these routes are proposed by the local companies with the knowledge of their areas, it means these are the routes most likely to have the demand.
"If the pilot scheme proves to be a success there is no reason why we cannot expand this to other routes across the country."
He is seeking to work with Transport Minister Shane Ross to come up with measures to tackle rural isolation. "Minister Ross has sent the proposal to the National Transport Authority for their analysis. The NTA are in touch with rural transport co-ordination units across the country to identify viable routes," he said.