Plans to Increase Rural Transport in the Midlands Gather Pace
I'm delighted that plans to increase and improve rural transport, a key Green Party led commitment in the Programme for Government, took another important step forward this week with the publication of the 2022 Implementation Schedule for the Connecting Ireland Rural Mobility Plan; the proposal includes new bus routes for Laois, Offaly and the wider Midlands.
It signals the first year of Connecting Ireland funding as part of a €55 million Green Party led commitment in the Programme for Government to radically improve rural public transport. This comes on the back of a 20% reduction in public transport fares introduced already this year, the first such reduction in 75 years, and a 50% reduction in travel for young adults (between 19 and 23). Early indications show a 10% increase in public transport uptake outside the greater Dublin area since costs were lowered.
We are committed to ensuring that we have a more affordable, more accessible, more efficient and more frequent rural public transport service. This first phase of the Connecting Ireland Rural Mobility Plan sets out what can be achieved this year, as another vital initial step towards transforming the way people can get around this country over the coming year. We have reduced transport fares, something we will work hard to continue, and now we are committed to increasing rural transport availability and frequency.
The Connecting Ireland Rural Mobility Plan is an ambitious programme of work to create a more integrated, accessible and sustainable public transport network for rural Ireland. The National Transport Authority (NTA) published Phase One of the Implementation Plan which includes an outline of the new routes that have already come into operation, routes that are to go into procurement, and routes that are expected to go into the planning and design phase.
In Offaly, the 840 Bus from Banagher to Tullamore is already in operation while the 823 Birr to Portlaoise bus is expected to be in operation before the end of the year. In the wider Midlands, the 819 will service Mullingar to Athlone via Castletown Geoghegan. There are also proposed new regional corridors including Portlaoise to Wexford. Regional Corridors generally operate along main roads, connecting cities and large towns and any settlements en-route. Connecting Ireland will improve the level of service during the core day, evenings and on weekends on Regional Corridors by liaising with existing service providers, improving existing services and may add new services.