Sinn Féin spokesperson on Rural Development Claire Kerrane TD has today called for the newly announced ‘Connecting Ireland’ transport initiative to listen to the needs of rural communities.
Led by the National Transport Authority (NTA), Connecting Ireland is aimed at increasing public transport connectivity between cities, towns, surrounding villages and rural areas.
The initiative is planned to be implemented over five years from 2022, at an estimated cost of €57m.
Speaking today following a briefing on the proposals, Teachta Kerrane said:
“Rural communities have experienced absolute inadequacy when it comes to public transport links for decades, and successive governments have failed to properly invest in connectivity.
“Increased and frequent transport services have been announced as part of Connecting Ireland, but the proof will be in the implementation.
“In my own constituency of Roscommon-Galway, we are seeing services being removed rather than scaled up.
“We saw this recently with the removal of the 20/X20 Dublin to Galway bus route, and I know there are similar experiences in other rural areas.
“There are also significant gaps in services, especially across the West of Ireland.
“We have a situation in County Galway where those living in Moylough and Mountbellew with appointments at nearby Portiuncula Hospital in Ballinasloe, are forced to get a bus to Galway City and then get another bus out of Galway City, to Ballinasloe.
“There are countless examples of nonsensical gaps like this across rural communities.
“For years, rural public transport approaches have been incoherent, underfunded and stripped back, when instead increased investment and better infrastructure was needed.
“Providing adequate transport links is so important for all parts of rural communities. This is especially true for older people, disabled people, and people who rely on public transport to get to their places of work or to access healthcare and services.
“The consultation process will also be fundamental to ensuring implementation of Connecting Ireland is adequate and responsive to the needs of rural areas and their communities.
“I understand rollout is scheduled to begin in 2022, which leaves quite a short time for consultation.
“Ensuring the consultation process is coherent, accessible and inclusive really matters. I encourage the NTA to reach out to all facets of rural communities, including engagement with local organisations representing Older People, Disabled People and Irish Rural Link.
“There must be a focus on addressing the fundamental flaws in our transport links to support workers and families with their day-to-day lives. Those living in these rural communities must be listened to as part of the development of this plan.”