Following a proposal by Kildare South TD Martin Heydon to Minister Shane Ross last Autumn, on behalf of the Fine Gael Parliamentary Party, the Minister has approved a number of local link bus routes to run over extended weekend hours. This will include the Athy Newbridge route which serves Athy, Kilberry, Kildangan, Nurney, Kildare town, Milltown and Newbridge.
“This local route currently runs 4 times daily but as part of an extended pilot to commence from July will also now run on Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings. This extension of the local bus route is good news for local people along the route who may want to travel to their local towns later in the evening.
“This route is one of 50 that have been confirmed by the NTA over 19 counties to tackle issues of social isolation. Following a funding call for applications to all 17 Local Link Offices to deliver a range of trial evening and night time services, the NTA received 50 proposals from 12 of the Local Link Offices.
“Having appraised the applications received, the NTA has now approved funding for all 50 new services on a 6 month trial basis. The services comprise 20 extensions to existing regular public transport routes and 30 demand responsive services, across 19 counties.
“They will add 188 new trips per week to the network of rural transport services nationally, and will run on average from 6pm to 11pm, typically on Friday and Saturday evenings.
“These 188 additional weekly bus runs will bring people into their local towns and villages in the evening times, driving economic activity in those areas and allowing people to gather for whatever activity they wish, from a visit to the cinema or to dance, play card games, view a GAA match, or visit a pub or restaurant. Communities and local businesses will be able organise new activities to attract residents into their town or village once they know that those residents will have this evening bus service available to them.
“Beyond this extensive pilot, which I believe highlights the massive potential of our rural transport network, I wish to see a change in how we as a State approach public transport in rural areas. Policy formation in this area has often been an after-thought rather than an integral part of overall public transport policy.
“The NTA plans to have all 50 services operational by end June 2018, running until December 2018 on a trial basis. The results of the trial will be assessed and the continuation of these services will be considered in the light of those results and the availability of funding in 2019.
“The total cost of funding these services for the 6 month period in 2018 is €450,000.”