Government’s Two Tier Transport funding leaving rural Ireland behind – Tóibín
Sinn Féin TD for Meath West Peadar Tóibín has said that the Government is wilfully neglecting transport links to rural Ireland, which is causing untold damage to the viability and connectivity of these regions.
Deputy Tóibín, chairman of the Committee for Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, said:
“Rural Ireland is under threat by cuts to public transport services as evidenced by the cutbacks on the Bus Éireann Expressway routes. This could have very grave implications for those living in the countryside as their already limited access to transport could be further curtailed.
“Much of the reason the Expressway service has become loss making is down to poor management – the National Transport Authority (NTA) granted too many licences to private companies which over-saturated the market. These private operators are not bound to provide essential services to the public, can ignore smaller towns and villages, and do not have to take the free travel pass.
“This means that ordinary residents are at risk at being left behind, especially those who live in rural areas. These could have serious implications for those who are in the most isolated regions, as well as those who use the travel pass. Derry and Letterkenny have neither rail, motorway, nor air connections with Dublin and now Fine Gael is considering removing the Bus Éireann service.
“The acting CEO of the NTA appeared before Committee earlier this month. When I questioned her, she admitted that private transport providers were not obliged to accept the travel pass. She also said that it was unlikely that private transport providers would stop at the same number of villages and towns that our public transport system currently serves.
“A huge disparity also came to light between the rate of subsidies that public transport providers in Dublin receive as to the rest of the country in committee. Bus Éireann receives €40 million in subventions each year – serving a population of approximately 3.5 million. This is at least four times less than what Bus Áth Cliath receives - €57 million servicing a population of approximately 1.2 million people.
“Protecting our rural transport links is crucial. We cannot simply allow the government to let less profitable routes which offer a vital service to those living in rural Ireland to be eliminated. If rural communities are to remain viable, it is obviously important that they remain connected.”