New bus stops proposed for Longford town
A number of Laois towns are set to benefit from a new evening bus pilot scheme designed to connect communities and combat rural isolation.
Laois TD and Minister for Justice and Equality, Charlie Flanagan, said this is an important link for rural communities.
“The National Transport Authority has now agreed that a series of 50 routes in 19 counties will have extended evening/weekend runs in a pilot scheme to operate from July to December. The buses will typically be available on Friday and Saturday evenings, between 6 and 11pm.
“In Laois the extended hours will be on the Mountrath, Castletown, Emo and surrounds," he said.
Local Link Laois Offaly under funding from the National Transport Authority has released three tenders for the provision of evening rural services.
The first three services will cover Emo, taking in Vicarstown, Courtwood, Fisherstown, Ballybrittas, Killenard, Old Pound, Kilbride, Limetree and Woodbrook.
The Mountrath/Casteltown service will take in Derrough, Clonenagh, Ringstown, Iry Ballyfin, Knockanina, Golf Links, Kilbricken, Clonard, Trumera, Rushin and Derrycanton.
In Offaly, the service will be extended in Kinnity, Clareen, Longford, Roscomore, Lackaroe, Cadamstown and Rath.
The initiative will cost €450,000 to run for six months. If it is deemed a success, Minister Shane Ross is likely to seek extra funding in next October's Budget to expand the scheme.
The services are described as Demand Responsive Transport which means passenger intending to travel must pre-book their seat as the bus operates a door to door service.
Minister Flanagan said that this will increase safety on roads.
“In light of the new drink driving rules coming into force to increase safety on our roads, we in Fine Gael felt it important to provide practical solutions to help combat potential isolation in our rural communities.
“The 188 additional weekly bus runs will bring people into their local towns and villages in the evening times, driving economic activity in those areas.
"We are very clear this is not just about the pub. The new bus service will facilitate people to gather for whatever activity they wish be it a local event, a regular card game, a trip to watch a match, or a visit to the cinema, restaurant or pub.
“Communities and local businesses in Laois will be able to organise new activities and events to attract residents in the evening, now that they know those residents will have this evening bus service available to them.
"The Government will continue to work with Minister Ross to ensure that we develop a public transport service all over rural Ireland that empowers communities, local business and rural dwellers," Minister Flanagan said.