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Lack of public transport a social and economic ‘disaster’ for rural Ireland, conference hears


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Jim Power: Picture: Dylan Vaughan

Jim Power: Picture: Dylan Vaughan


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Failure to provide public transport for rural areas will have disastrous social and economic consequences, the Government has been warned.

Economist Jim Power said rural communities, and key coalition policies, would be left at a standstill without adequate investment.

“Remote working will not work, the car culture will continue to undermine environmental objectives, and rural areas will be denuded of young people, and social and economic vibrancy,” he said.

“It is time to adopt a revolutionary approach to the provision of public transport.”

Mr Power was addressing the international iRoute conference in Kilkenny which heard from experts in transport, social policy and rural development.

The key message was that good transport in rural areas prevented many problems and solved many others.

“To live in rural Ireland, having a car is essential to socialise, to shop and to go to work,” Mr Power said.

“As well as imposing higher costs on rural dwellers, it also flies in the face of Ireland’s so-called environmental agenda.

“The car culture and the car dependency need to be addressed in urban and rural settings.

“While public transport in urban areas is still inadequate in most cases, no attempt is even being made in rural Ireland.

“This has disastrous economic, environmental and social consequences.”

The conference heard from Tim Gaston of the National Transport Authority, that extensive plans for increasing and expanding bus services for communities in villages and small towns would begin to be rolled out shortly.

Under the Connecting Ireland plan, every village is to have a bus service at least three or four times daily that would conveniently connect with town and city services.

The plan has a five-year timeline but a small number of new services are to begin within weeks, with more added throughout the rest of this year.

Mr Gaston said Ireland’s highly dispersed population made providing satisfactory services a challenge.

“We do not live in cities or towns like other parts of Europe. More than half of people here in Kilkenny for example do not live in urban areas,” he said.

Hildegarde Naughton, Minister of State for Transport, told the gathering she was confident that the right framework was being put in place to improve services.

“This will improve people's quality of life and allow the rural transport programme to grow and develop into the future,” she said.

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