Connecting Ireland is the National Transport Authority’s Plan over 5 years (2022 – 2026 inclusive) to invest in the provision of new and improved public transport services to rural areas and between villages and towns across Ireland.

It’s also a process of getting agencies involved in the organisation and planning of public transport to work together to take on new information, develop, implement, reviewing and steer Connecting Ireland activity to ensure that experiences learned along the way improve the end result.

Connecting Ireland identifies and plans to meet the need for public transport from rural areas to villages and towns, and demand for travel between villages and towns. Any area of Ireland outside of cities (e.g. Dublin, Cork, Galway) and large towns (e.g. Drogheda, Navan, Kilkenny City) is in scope.
There are other plans to deal with demand for regular travel wholly with large towns and cities.

Our planned improvements will include a mix of:
• New and improved traditional fixed-route bus services between places, operating to published timetables, and stopping at designated stops en route to serve intermediate places,
• New and improved demand responsive services (usually using smaller buses) working variable routes and times depending on who books to use them, linking less populous areas into the network,
• community car services, and
• rural taxi and hackney services.

New and enhanced services will be designed to arrive into town and village destinations at times of the day and week that will be more useful to you. They’ll allow you time at your destination to get your jobs / messages / appointments done, meet up and have a chat with friends or family, or make a connection to travel further afield, and get home again at a reasonable time.

On regional routes between villages and towns we will put attractive timetables in place that will suit you, rather than expecting you to adapt your life around inadequate services.

We either have consulted or will consult partner agencies such as your Local and Regional Authorities, your elected representatives, the tourism sector, the retail sector, the employment development sector and others in the development of the Plan. The agencies tell us their plans to develop their services and activities, what the likely impact in terms of growth in demand for travel will be as a result of their economic and planning activity, and advise and guide us so that we all move forward in the right direction.

We intend to maintain contact with these and other community based groups and advocates as the work progresses.

Because of the restrictions on getting together to limit the spread of COVID-19, we are going to consult with people on-line. In addition, you will find all our Connecting Ireland documentation, interactive maps, and other items in our Virtual Consultation Room on the Connecting Ireland section of the NTA website.

Each county will have its own section. Look for your county on the map and click on it. You will be able to see the tangible ways in which your public transport services will be enhanced as Connecting Ireland is implemented.

You can also respond to surveys and leave comments and suggestions to help us improve the nature and timing of our programme.

We will look at routings between start and end points of services, prepare service timetables for each day-type in the week, consider the range of activities within the catchment area of the service that generate demand for transport, consider their proximity to the public transport network and examine possible connections at bus & rail stations between buses and bus-rail.

We will strive to use the funding we get from Government to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of bus and rail services across rural Ireland. This is why we have involved local partners in planning Connecting Ireland, so that we bring in-depth local knowledge and insights to our proposals.

Specifically, we will:
• Increase frequency of services on existing routes to attract more usage,
• Ensure that less populous areas where demand for service is low get at least a useful level of service,
• Design useful timetables for Monday-Friday, Saturday and Sunday based on the following:
o Catering for those working, shopping and visiting a
town and living a distance away,
o Suiting the traditional length of a working day or
a typical shopping trip, providing opportunities
where demand warrants to shop / socialise into the
evening,
o Serve all the major attractions a town has to
offer, e.g. Public Health Centre, Hospital, Shopping
area, employment zones, amenities, rail & bus
stations, etc.,
o Provide better services in the evenings, between
the morning and evening rush hours, and on weekends,
including Sunday.

If services are well used at times of the day, week or year, preventing others from getting on, we will identify precisely when and why this is happening and increase the level of service if this is the best response.

The Authority tries to hold fares at a level that makes public transport affordable and attractive to the market, while at the same collecting revenue that partially covers the cost of providing the service, with the State making up the difference. This is a tricky balancing act, particularly at times of pressure on the State’s finances.

Fares will not be increased as a result of the decisions taken in Connecting Ireland, but there is no guarantee that fares will not rise as a result of other financial pressures that may arise in the future.

Yes.

The Connecting Ireland team will recommend where best to provide stops and shelters. A separate programme within the Authority will set about providing them.

As transport service planners, the Connecting Ireland team will advise where prioritising buses will improve the reliability and punctuality of the service, so more people will trust it and use it. From experience, this is likely to be on the approaches to town and village centres.

We have audited the current public transport network and identified that 26% of people who live in non-urban areas either have no public transport service, or what they have is not useful to them. That simply isn’t good enough for those who need to get to goods and services at distances beyond reasonable expectation of being able to walk or cycle – and who don’t have the use of a car (X% of that 26%).

Ireland also has international obligations in terms of slowing and reversing damage already caused to the environment, by improving the sustainability of how we live and – in particular – how we travel. We have all seen on our TV screens the impact of recent weather events around the world – scientists attribute the intensity and increasing frequency of these events to climate change. Ireland has committed to work with other countries to reduce the emissions that are warming our world and changing the climate. These goals have been set out in national policy and programmes such as the National Development Plan, the Climate Action Plan, and the Programme for Government. The transport sector has to play its part in achieving these goals. Of course, we can develop vehicles that are more ‘environment-friendly’, we can reduce our travel by more on-line trade, etc. – but there is no shirking the potential benefits we at individual level can make by occasionally choosing not to travel by car and take the bus or walk or cycle.

The Authority in recent years has focused on achieving that behaviour change in urban markets, as it’s easier to organise effective and efficient public transport services in densely populated towns and cities. Young people in particular are increasingly using urban public transport services. Connecting Ireland is our proposal to now give rural dwellers and people living in smaller villages and towns throughout the country an opportunity to join in the effort. You can travel more often, but in a sustainable way, by choosing to use the useful public transport services that will be provided under the Connecting Ireland initiative.

Sometimes, using the car may not be best way to travel somewhere – you might be going somewhere you aren’t familiar with, or when you arrive you find parking is scarce or expensive, or you find car traffic is restricted because there are new public spaces and pedestrian precincts opening up in your town or village, or there are traffic jams and delays likely on your journey.

You might need good public transport services as you get older and decide not to drive as often, or indeed any more.

You might not be feeling as well as usual, and would prefer to let someone else do the driving.

You may want to go with a group somewhere, have a drink, and then it’s good to have a way home other than by driving yourself.

You may be interested to hear that as a society we are overly dependent on the private car for our mobility. 7 in 10 trips made right throughout the country every day are by car – that’s too high. It indicates a level of car dependence that is unsustainable into the future.

Public transport just might be a more attractive option – by dropping you right at the door of that shopping centre you want to go to. Our point is simply this – as a society – we need effective public transport so that we all have more options to remain mobile, independent and engaged as we go through life.

When our Plan has been implemented, some places will have a new public transport service. Some places will have a better and more useful public transport service. People generally will have more opportunities to access the same or new services other than by car – it may be you can now go regularly to work in a new job in a new location, further your education or skills, attend a healthcare service, go to different shops, cultural events, entertainments and leisure opportunities.

Public transport timetables will be more useful to you in going about you busy life. Connections to permit onward travel by rail and interurban bus at hub points in the network will work better. Elderly people will be able to maintain their independent mobility and stay engaged, and young people will have more independence and choices in pursuit of their studies, social lives and new work opportunities.

You may have heard discussions on how the pattern of attendance at work has changed since Covid19. Some of these changes may last. Some people may relocate to smaller towns and villages, travelling less often to work in a city on a longer commute than before, but less often each week, working the balance of the week on-line at home. Providing public transport services to meet the needs of new people to access local towns and villages is a chance to re-invigorate our rural economies.

The idea is that more people will get more utility from the public transport network and will use it more often, depending on where and when they want to go. When they respond by increasing their use of public transport and that individual response accumulates across the whole country, Ireland will contribute to protecting the environment.

Connecting Ireland will integrate bus and rail services at hub stations better into the future. This includes revising bus services when rail timetables are revised to ensure connections are maintained. The process of revising rail services is more complex than for bus services, so the rate at which rail service revisions will be implemented will be slower. It is therefore important to monitor progress on both modes to ensure no disruption to passengers who use both modes on their journeys.

It only differs from what the Authority normally should do and does by putting a plan in place to develop service enhancements in a systematic manner, work with partner agencies, set timelines for delivery, and secure a source of funding to support the programmatic approach.

About €10m per year over the 5 years of the Plan.

Think about it this way – it will cost the country more not to do it.

Feedback can be submitted through our online survey by clicking here. You are also welcome to send your feedback through the following channels:

Mailing Address:
Connecting Ireland
P.O. Box 436
City North Business Park
Tuam Road
Co Galway

Email Address:
connectingireland@nationaltransport.ie

Phone:
0818 300121

The public consultation runs from 29 October 2021 – 10 December 2021.