Rural Bus reminder: bums on seats are what matters
THE COORDINATOR of the Rural Bus service has urged its users to continue with the service as it enters a new phase in its history.
Currently in a transition phase, the service recently celebrated a decade in business despite coming under scrutiny in the Colm McCarthy 'Bord Snip' report, which deemed rural transport was costing the Government too much.
In 2012, the National Transport Authority (NTA) took over the management of the Rural Transport Programme and in January 2014, The Rural Bus at SWW CDP, Ramsgrange and another Wexford rural bus service called Rural Roadrunner, based in Wexford Local Development, were successful in their joint application to the NTA to become a Transportation Coordination Unit, (to become known as Wexford Local Link), for Co Wexford.
Both companies are currently working with the NTA to establish a new company to manage this new entity. Wexford Local Link will be responsible for the management and administration of the rural transport programme for the whole of Co Wexford for an initial contract period of two years.
Rural Bus Coordinator MaryB O'Leary said although there is no imminent threat to the service, 'bums on seats are what is going to matter at the end of the day'.
The service – which had over 26,000 passengers last year – provides affordable transportation from rural areas of South West Wexford into New Ross, Wexford, Enniscorthy and Waterford and at stops in between. It also services Ramsgrange and Ballyhack primary schools, as well as third level education and training centres in Waterford.
Passenger trips for January and February 2014 show an increase of almost 11 per cent on the same period in 2013.
Ms O'Leary said: 'Midweek the passengers are mainly older people who use the service for all their shopping and business needs as well as accessing health appointments. At the weekend, especially the Saturday routes, passengers are mainly younger people going to town to meet friends, go to the cinema and just to hang out with their peers. The Rural Transport programme is here to provide transport to people who can't get to other public transport. We are delighted to help anyone we can young or old. Give us a call and we will provide all the information on our routes or post out a timetable.'
Rose Salter (78) from the Ballycullane area uses the service weekly to do her shopping and attend medical appointments with her husband George (84) and describes it as a lifeline.
'If we didn't have the Rural Bus we would be stranded.
The nearest shop is a mile and a half away so the bus allows me great independence.'
Rose and George have used the bus to travel to New Ross and Waterford each week for the past nine years ever since George suffered a mini stroke and had to stop driving as his coordination and concentration was affected.
'If we didn't have the bus we'd have to use the taxi to see the doctor or the dentist or to go shopping. It's an invaluable service and there are a lot of people like us who depend on it.'
Rose said plans to scrap the Rural Bus were announced in the mid-Noughties but Sean Connick encroached on the then Minister for Transport to maintain the service.
'At the moment what we have in situ is brilliant but when it comes under the new body I honestly don't know what will happen. We would be absolutely lost without it. We only need one taxi a week now for mass but we couldn't afford a taxi all the time.'
Another person who finds the bus service invaluable is Pat Dunne. Pat lives alone in a very isolated area and previously had to walk seven or eight miles into New Ross for his shopping before the Rural Bus started. One day when the bus dropped him back there was a gang in his yard, the driver contacted the guards and the bus stayed there until they left.
Diane Murphy (25) from Clongeen used the bus when she was studying in Waterford and now uses it to go into New Ross with her mother Kay.
'If it went we wouldn't be able to go anywhere as we don't drive. You get to know everyone on the bus; I've been using it for years. It's not only important to me but to a lot of people.'
For many students in the greater New Ross area, the Rural Bus is the difference between being able to afford to study at third level college and not.
One college student who asked to remain anonymous said: 'I lost my job a few years back and recently decided to return to education at Waterford Institute of Technology. Unfortunately being out of work means that I can't afford to run a car so I am dependent on public transport to get to WIT.
'The Rural Bus service is excellent for me. I only have a five minute walk in the morning to the bus stop. The flexible service provided by the Rural Bus means I am dropped at the door of WIT every morning and the bus waits in the evening until all students are finished their lectures before leaving. This means if a lecture or practical lesson goes on longer than expected the bus will wait the extra few minutes. The Rural Bus is the only public transport that suits my college timetable, all other services leave too early or much too late from the city centre and would drop me off four miles from home.'
The service travels across the Passage East Car Ferry keeping the travel time for students as short much as possible. The route alters each term to pick up students close to their homes. Over 45 students have used the service for the college year 2013-2014.
Anyone living in the South West Wexford area is welcome to contact the Rural Transport Coordinator on 051 389679, email email@example.com or see the website www.theruralbus.ie
New Ross Standard