As we seek to strengthen our rural towns and villages, we need to better provision them with public transport to give people an alternative to accessing employment, education and public services without needing to use the private car.
If you take the rural areas of the Limerick City constituency: Murroe has only two buses a day, Caherconlish has three, Newport has five, Montpelier has two. Many villages have a skeleton Saturday service and no Sunday service. This has an impact on rural isolation, especially for elderly and younger people who cannot drive.
There have been many studies on public transport in rural areas, and while there will be a continued role for ‘on demand’ and semi-timetabled public transport services to help people without a car to attend appointments and go on shopping trips, I would like to see expansion of rural bus services to at least six services a day, two of which should facilitate commuting in or out of towns and villages (businesses will be more encouraged to locate in rural areas if staff can easily commute into those areas, people commuting into Limerick City need an alternative). We need to make sure that these services connect into an integrated network in the city, so people can conveniently access bus and rail services to take them elsewhere.
An example of this is the recently launched Local Link service from Thurles railway station to Limerick via Newport, UL and Castletroy. This service operates three times a day under contract from the National Transport Authority. We need to expand these services significantly to cover all towns and villages and provide a real alternative to the private car.
Together with a policy of encouraging compact growth in our villages, this will allow our rural areas to grow, thrive, and become more sustainable.