A Joint Committee on Rural Community Development report is calling on Government Departments and relevant agencies to work together to ensure planned rural transport projects are funded.
The Report on Regional and Rural Transport Policy published today (Wednesday, 17 July) makes fourteen recommendations, all of which are underpinned by the need for increased funding to ensure access to rural transport and connectivity, to and from rural areas.
Chairperson of the Committee, Joe Carey TD said rural life needs good transport.
Deputy Carey added: “For too long, infrastructural development has been concentrated in the east. This has resulted in a situation where all roads lead to the capital but there is poor connectivity between regional areas.”
“The inherent social and economic potential which exists in rural areas has often been overlooked. This has led to a situation where there has been uneven distribution of public transport services in rural areas. As well as this, there has been a lack of joined up thinking about transport service provision and connectivity in the regions.”
The recommendations in the report include:
- Increase funding for national, regional and local roads to ensure access to rural transport and connectivity to and from rural areas.
- Develop synergies between all Government Departments with rural transport responsibilities to ensure the rural transport agenda is kept to the fore and that funding, rather than just planning is provided.
- Provide morning to midnight commuter services linking rural towns to urban areas with third level colleges, hospitals and major employers.
- A change to the subsidies system for public service operators (PSO) to ensure train and bus fares are the same per km in urban and rural areas.
- Identify and fund new infrastructural developments to resolve over-concentration of road development and public transport in the east the country.
- Develop expansion plans for Local Link services.
- Include in national transport policy an assurance that services, where appropriate are strategically provided to create demand rather than purely to respond to demand.
- Expansion of rural, local and regional bus networks.
- Increase Government funding to the Western Development Commission.
- Inclusion of the Western Rail Corridor in any Government policy as a significant component of any transport development in realising the full potential of the western region.
- Urgently address insurance and regulation issues surrounding new rural transport initiatives; for example community taxi services.
- Map out bus route services in all counties and regularly update and publish them in consultation with local communities.
The Committee had nine hearings with stakeholders on the issue of rural connectivity from 2016 to 2019. A separate report on rail transport in rural areas is also being prepared by the Committee to be published later this year.
The report can be accessed in full here.