Evening bus services to run in rural areas as part of pilot scheme

The proposal will see bus services across 50 routes in 19 counties

Evening bus services to run in rural areas as part of pilot scheme

A LocalLink van | Image: locallink.ie

Bus services are to run in several rural areas of the country as part of a new pilot scheme.

The proposal would see bus services across 50 different routes in 19 counties.

Fine Gael says it is a measure to help combat rural isolation and connect communities.

The LocalLink bus scheme is going to run from 6.00pm to 11.00pm in areas including Kildare, Kerry, Cork, Laois, Offaly, Donegal, Waterford, Wexford, Cavan and Monaghan.

It was first proposed Transport Minister Shane Ross last autumn by chair of the Fine Gael Parliamentary Party, Martin Heydon.

Mr Heydon said: "In light of the new drink driving rules coming into force, I felt it was extremely important that we provide practical solutions to help combat potential isolation in our rural communities".

An accessible LocalLink bus in Donegal | Image: locallink.ie

"This is a great result for rural Ireland and just one example of how Fine Gael is using the economic recovery to strengthen rural communities.

"Along with my colleagues in the Fine Gael parliamentary party, I am focused on better connecting communities in rural areas and addressing social isolation in a practical way."

The scheme will cost €450,000 for six months to be paid for by the National Transport Authority (NTA).

Minister Ross told the Pat Kenny Show this is just the beginning.

"I don't think people realise - and maybe that's my fault for not communicating it properly - we had a series of meetings with representatives of rural Ireland... last year on the issue of social rural isolation.

"It is a very serious problem, independently of the drink-driving bill, they are running in parallel, but the drink-driving bill will go ahead and this will go ahead but totally independently".

Image: locallink.ie

"This is a pilot scheme and the NTA went out as a result of those meetings... and asked LocalLink to find out where there were routes which needed improving or lengthening to bring communities together, and where there's room for new routes".

"This is pilot scheme, we're not going to set in stone, it's going to run from June to December and then we're going to review it.

"Where there are improvements to be made we'll improve them, where we've run services which aren't in demand we'll change them and if there's demand for others yeah we'll go ahead".