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24 May 2022

Funding on way for rural transport integration, major Kilkenny conference hears

Event took place in Newpark Hotel

KILKENNY

Jim Power Conference Chairman pictured at the international Integrated Rural & Urban Transport Evolution (iROUTE ) conference in Kilkenny

Greater connectivity, a wider selection of destinations and more frequent transport services are top priority for existing and potential service users of rural public transport, a major public consultation has shown.

The results of that consultation were revealed at a major conference in Kilkenny's Newpark Hotel yesterday.

Over a quarter of members of the public surveyed described their current public transport service as ‘very poor’, research by the National Transport Authority shows.

The Connecting Ireland rural mobility plan will create a more integrated, accessible and sustainable public transport network for rural Ireland. It will provide a better rural transport network, reduce rural isolation and it will provide greater access to services, work and educational opportunities and will improve the economic competitiveness of rural Ireland, the research found.

Addressing the Integrated Rural Urban Transport Evolution (iRoute) conference, Tim Gaston, Director of Public Transport Services at the NTA, said there is integrated thinking on rural transport provision which will provide much improved connectivity over the next five years under the Connecting Ireland programme.

“We do not live in cities or towns like other parts of Europe. More than half of people here in Kilkenny for example do not live in urban areas. Funding is coming for rural transport integration and the Climate Action Plan, the previous and the current government have started to give us more funding. We had to take a national view so we did a study.


Tim Gaston, Director of Public Transport Services, National Transport Authority at the iROUTE conference 

“Over 3,000 people participated in a public consultation process where the NTA asked for views on the Connecting Ireland proposals. It showed that 46% of respondents want better connections to other services; 44% would like to access a wider range of destinations via public transport; 70% would like more frequent services on their current public transport routes and 65% of respondents said that they feel that Connecting Ireland will lead to a reduction in car dependency and transport emissions.”

Minister of State for Transport, Hildegarde Naughton, addressing the conference said: “This positive exchange of views leads to further collaboration and cohesive engagement between local communities, practitioners, and policymakers.

“As Minister of State for Transport, I am confident that together we will leave a legacy of a much more efficient framework for the provision of rural transport. This will improve people's quality of life and allow the rural transport programme to grow and develop into the future.”

Economist, Jim Power, told the conference that to bring social and economic vibrancy to rural communities, having adequate and reliable public transport is essential.

“To live in rural Ireland, having a car is essential to socialise, to shop and to go to work,” he said.

“As well as imposing higher costs of living on rural dwellers, it also flies in the face of Ireland’s so-called environmental agenda.

“The car culture and the car dependency need to be addressed in urban and rural settings. While public transport in urban areas is still inadequate in most cases, no attempt is even being made in rural Ireland. This has disastrous economic, environmental and social consequences.

“On a cost-benefit basis, which has to include economic, social and environmental metrics; the State must invest in adequate public transport in rural areas. In the absence of such investment, remote working will not work; the car culture will continue to undermine environmental objectives, and continue the process of denuding rural areas of young people, and social and economic vibrancy.

"It is time to adopt a revolutionary approach to the provision of public transport,” the rural Waterford native said.

“During the Pandemic we witnessed the re-emergence of a love affair with the importance of supporting and fostering local businesses, and it is now vitally important that we keep our focus on the importance of creating and sustaining local communities; local businesses and local economies.

“Mobility, communication and somewhere local to buy food have been described as the three basic elements of any community. While today’s conference is all about mobility, the three strands are heavily inter-connected and inter-dependent."

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