6 December 2017
By Mary Bermingham
A new Fine Gael proposal for increased bus services will help tackle rural isolation. That’s according to Fine Gael Senator for Cork North Central who says that County Cork is part of Fine Gael’s proposal for a pilot scheme to extend bus services.
“The Fine Gael Parliamentary Party recently discussed the matter of rural isolation, and we are now proposing our solution. The idea is to extend public transport in rural areas to times where it isn’t currently available, for example the evenings.
“While the drink driving legislation has brought the debate about social isolation to the fore, this proposal is actually about a lot more than bringing people to and from the pub. This is about connecting our communities and ensuring our rural transport services work to meet people’s needs. An extension of the bus services into the evening could be particularly useful for people living alone.
“This idea would need to be piloted in the first instance. Working in conjunction with the local link companies, we proposed 38 routes for a pilot scheme, as they are all existing successful routes that have good passenger numbers during the day.
“The proposed pilot is extensive, covering 12 local link companies across 15 counties. I am pleased to say that Cork County is part of this proposed pilot scheme, with the following routes suggested initially:
Kinsale – Clonakilty (12 extra trips) and Mitchelstown – Fermoy (12 extra trips)
“The idea is that if the 38 routes see significant demand for the pilot evening service, we would then look to roll this out on a nationwide basis which would include the entire area of County Cork.
“Adding in an extra round trip in the evening has no additional capital cost for these services, due to the fact that all routes proposed have existing buses in place.
“Fine Gael is passionate about the potential of rural transport as a way of addressing issues of social isolation. We, as a nation, haven’t fully tapped into the potential that local link offers us. As the local link services move towards door to door services, with the involvement of local hackneys, there is a much greater flexibility in the service than the linear routes might suggest.
“At a cost of a little over €1 million, this pilot would provide in excess of 11,000 extra trips per annum around rural Ireland. This figure doesn’t take into account the money that would be collected in fares which could be a real boost for bus companies here in County Cork.”