'This isn't about drink it's about linking people'

Simon Brouder

The new rural bus service dubbed the 'drink link' is about much more than just bringing people to and from the pub according to the head of Local Link Kerry which will manage the service.

Eight routes in Kerry have been included in a pilot project that will see 50 new evening and night-time rural bus services set up to tackle rural isolation.

The new services will transport rural residents to and from social events for a nominal fee.

For six months - from June to December - eight state subsidised routes will be operated by the Kerry Local Link service after which each route will be assessed to see if the contract should be renewed.

The eight Kerry routes are as follows: Kerryhead to Ballyheigue; Castleisland to Currow and Cordal; Glencar area; Waterville to Ballinskelligs; Listowel area; Kenmare to Bonane; Asdee to Ballylongford and Castlegregory to Cloghane.

The exact details of the individual routes are being finalised with local bus operators and communities and Local Link Kerry expect all eight will be up and running by mid June.

Pensioners and Travel Pass holders will be able to use the service for free while other passengers will pay a nominal return fee of about €5.

The services will likely run one night a week - probably on a Thursday, Friday or Saturday - between 6pm and 11pm.

Although the service has been labelled the 'drink link' Local Link Kerry say it will do much more than simply ferry people to and from bars.

"It's not all about drink. It's about connecting communities. It's an opportunity to build a rural public transport network," said Local Link Kerry General Manager Carmel Walsh.

"This isn't just for the elderly or for people going to the pub. It's for all ages and whole communities. I'd love, just for example, to see a teenager in Ballinskelligs hopping on the bus to go and have a bag of chips with their friends in Waterville," said Ms Walsh.

Whether or not the service succeeds in all areas Carmel Walsh believes it would be madness not to try it out when State funds are freely available.

"It's lovely to have the luxury of bring able to try something that hasn't been done before".