25% INCREASE IN RURAL BUS SERVICES PLANNED UNDER NTA’S CONNECTING IRELAND PROPOSALS
The National Transport Authority (NTA) is proposing an overall increase of approximately 25% in rural bus services as part of the five-year Connecting Ireland plan that was published for public consultation today.
The Connecting Ireland plan is a major national public transport initiative developed by the NTA with the aim of increasing public transport connectivity, particularly for people living outside our major cities and towns. The plan aligns with the current national policy framework including the Rural Development Policy 2021-2025, Project Ireland 2040 and the Climate Action Plan.
Connecting Ireland proposes to expand the public transport network in rural areas and to increase service levels. As a result:
· 70% of people in rural Ireland will have access to public transport service that provides at least three return trips daily to the nearby town. (This compares to the current figure of 53%.)
· Over 100 rural villages will benefit from frequent public transport service (at least three return trips daily) for the first time
· Over 100 rural areas will benefit from a regular service, at least three return trips daily to their county town for the first time
· There will be over 60 new connections to regional cities from surrounding areas.
· Improved mobility options for those in remote areas with the provision of Demand Responsive and other innovative transport services
What will Connecting Ireland mean for Tipperary?
· Improved interurban bus services between Nenagh and Roscrea and Dublin, and between Cahir, Cashel and Clonmel and Dublin (co-ordinated with rail services from Limerick Junction, Thurles and Templemore).
· Enhanced interurban bus services between Limerick via Tipperary, Cahir, Clonmel, Carrick-on-Suir and Waterford, between Athlone via Nenagh, Thurles, Cashel and Clonmel, and between Limerick via Thurles to Kilkenny.
· New local bus services from Silvermines, Dromineer and Puckaun into Nenagh.
· New local bus services from Galway via Loughrea and Portumna to Nenagh.
· New local bus services from Doon to Cashel, from Cashel to Callan and from Clonmel to Dungarvan.
· Enhanced local bus services from Holycross, Urlingford and Fethard into both Thurles and Clonmel.
Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan said: “This Connecting Ireland plan will significantly increase both the number of routes and the frequency of existing services right across the country. Hundreds of rural villages and areas will for the first time will be served by a viable public transport link.
“To have strong local economies and to give people real options for getting around you need good public transport links – this plan represents a step-change in delivering good quality public transport in rural Ireland.
“If we are to deliver on our emissions targets, we need to make sure that people have the services and alternatives they need. My department allocated €5.6m from budget 2022 to the NTA so that as early as next year the NTA can begin investing in these services and giving people those alternatives.”
Anne Graham, CEO of the NTA said: “Connecting Ireland is among the most important plans that NTA has produced in recent years.
“Our TFI Local Link network operates in every part of the country and the local knowledge we have gathered over the years through our Local Link offices has been invaluable to us in putting together these plans.
“We know that for many people, living in a village or in a rural area can mean that accessing services, or employment, or education, or even retail is difficult if not impossible, without using a private car. We want to change that.
“I believe that expanding the public transport network and increasing service levels, in the way we are proposing, will mean that more people in rural areas will have greater levels of freedom whether or not they have a car.
“But it’s not about what I believe. What’s more important now is for us to get the views of members of the public – particularly those in rural areas – about Connecting Ireland.
“We’re asking people to go to nationaltransport.ie, read the details about what Connecting Ireland means for your area and your county, and give us your feedback.”
The public consultation process commences today. For more details visit: nationaltransport.ie
MEASURING SERVICE INCREASE
Currently about 90 million service vehicle kilometres are provided annually, serving rural communities and subsidised by the NTA, including both local and inter-regional services. Connecting Ireland proposes an additional 22.8 million annual vehicle kilometres, representing an approximate 25% increase in service levels compared to today.
When it comes to local services such as those currently provided by TFI Local Link, the proposed increase is even more significant. Currently, 6 million vehicle kilometres are provided annually across the country by TFI Local Link, and this is set to increase to 18.3 million under Connecting Ireland plans, an increase of some 200%.
In producing this plan, the NTA has completed a comprehensive assessment of the existing network of regular public transport services operating across the country. This gives us a better understanding of where improvements are needed. The issues we have identified include:
· Gaps in the network, which mean that two in five villages are not connected to their nearby big town
· Inconsistency of connectivity between different parts of the country
· The need to ensure that public transport caters for a range of functions and is not just for commuting to work or education
· Better integrating timetables to make public transport more useful and connections between different public transport options easier
The plan aims to improve mobility in rural areas, and it will do this by providing better bus connections between villages and towns by linking these areas with an enhanced regional network connecting cities and regional centres nationwide.