Local communities have been left stranded with the loss of two bus services this month, as Bus Eireann and Aircoach both cut their services to Laois.
Bus Eireann is cutting out Durrow, Abbeyleix and Johnstown and taking the motorway directly from Portlaoise to Urlingford, effective from Sunday, June 24, in efforts to speed up their new Cork to Dublin airport service.
Aircoach cancelled their inter town service last Friday, June 8, blaming a decline in passenger numbers. They will now operate an express service only from Cork to Dublin airport. It took in Portlaoise Abbeyleix and Durrow.
A public meeting is being held in the Castle Arms Hotel, Durrow tonight, Wednesday June 13 at 8.30 pm but one Bus Eireann driver who did not wish to be named said the decision should be reversed.
“Myself and my colleagues are not happy with them pulling the route, it makes no sense. They are trying to go around on the motorway to Urlingford, it’s longer than going straight. I don’t see any point in them cutting two towns. Abbeyleix is a popular town for visitors, and people used the bus to get to work in Castle Durrow. What are they supposed to do now?” he said.
The driver says Bus Eireann didn’t inform the public about the cut, leaving it up to him to pass on the bad news.
“People are disappointed, but we are equally disappointed. It’s an awful shame to see it going. Bus Eireann is publically funded. I hope people can put pressure on their TDs to reverse the decision,” he said.
Bus Eireann’s decision has been strongly condemned by local TDs, who have voiced their concerns to Minister for Transport, Leo Varadkar.
Dep Sean Fleming claims there is a cartel between the two companies.
“We are going from a situation where there were two bus companies operating in this area to none. This cartel must stop. They removed Ballybrittas and Monasterevin from routes. I would be concerned that they will now try and move the Dublin/Limerick bus route onto the motorway,” he said.
Sinn Fein TD Brian Stanley says the decision should be reversed.
“This would mean the further erosion of public transport services for rural areas and the isolation of many people. This decision by a public transport provider is not acceptable and instead of removing towns Bus Eireann should be adding places like Cullohill to the route.” he said.
Fine Gael TD Charles Flanagan told the Leinster Express he was in contact with Bus Eireann.
“I have asked them to keep the service pending a review of customer numbers, They are considering it,” he said.
A spokesperson for Bus Éireann says their service through Laois is purely commercial and receives no state money.
“Such services face intense competition with licences increasingly being provided to our competitors to run more direct services. Bus Éireann must ensure it meets the customer demand for limited stop services with quicker journey times and airport connections. Failure to react to this would result in a reduction or loss of services and jobs,”
The spokesperson says Bus Eireann are talking to the National Transport Authority about providing a publicly funded bus service to the midlands, as part of an on-going review.