Durrow, Abbeyleix and surrounding villages will be without a bus service from Friday, February 8, when a private contractor terminates the service just three months into their contract.
M&A Coaches began the daily route between Urlingford and Portlaoise last November, taking over from Bus Eireann who cancelled the stops on their Dublin to Cork route because they were not profitable.
After a strong public campaign based in Abbeyleix, the National Transport Authority agreed to seek tenders from private companies on the route, which served Johnstown, Urlingford, Cullahill, Durrow, Abbeyleix and Portlaoise.
Kilkenny based M&A Coaches were contracted for the service, but last Friday January 25 they announced they were also pulling the plug. MD Michael Dowling would not confirm why the service was cancelled, but it is believed it was for financial reasons also.
The company were giving a discount to children, students and customers with travel passes, despite not getting any subsidy from the government for providing the service.
Mr Dowling was asked if he would reapply to run the service if a subsidy became available, but said he had “no information at this time”.
Local campaigner Michael G Phelan says a government subvention will be now introduced for the service, increasing its viability.
“Following a meeting on Thursday January 24, Gerry Murphy of the National Transport Authority announced that subvention will be restored from February 2013 on the Portlaoise to Urlingford bus route. This service will again go out to tender in the coming weeks,” he says.
Sinn Féin TD Brian Stanley is calling for Bus Eireann to resume their service.
“I believe that this route will only be viable if it is re-instated as part of the Bus Eireann Dublin to Cork route again, and I am calling for this to happen in order to secure the future of this service,” he said.
Dep Stanley says the NTA informed him that M & A Coaches’ had requested to terminate the contract because they “cannot sustain the financial losses”.
“The NTA has agreed but they intend to re-tender for the service shortly provided some subsidy is made available. In the meantime the NTA will endeavour to ensure that a service is in place during the tender period to avoid any break in service,” he says.
The NTA were unavailable for comment.