The Minister for Transport, Eamon Ryan TD, with the National Transport Authority (NTA) today launched the Connecting Ireland Rural Mobility Plan for 2023 in Tullamore, Co. Offaly.
In what is one of the most ambitious plans yet for rural transport, 67 new or enhanced Connecting Ireland bus services are proposed, strengthening existing services and connecting more towns and townlands across the state.
Last year, Connecting Ireland delivered 38 new and enhanced bus services across various counties, bringing new bus services to 67 additional towns. In 2022 almost €4m was invested in implementing Connecting Ireland bus services, but this year that figure will double to €8.5m provided by the Department of Transport and NTA.
These services are provided on behalf of the NTA by 15 TFI Local Link offices nationwide, including Laois/ Offaly Local Link which is managed by Frances Byrne, who attended today’s launch.
Bus Éireann, will also be a key partner in delivery of new Connecting Ireland services this year. Some 20 of the routes identified in the 2023 implementation plan are to be delivered by Bus Éireann in counties such as Galway, Waterford, Clare and Cork.
Response by customers to new services in rural Ireland has been very strong, with passenger numbers on buses returning to pre-Covid levels. This is particularly the case on TFI Local Link services in rural Ireland. The annual passenger journey figure for 2019 was 2.5m. Covid had a serious impact on passenger numbers in 2020 and 2021, but in 2022, they rose to 2.8m, a recovery of 112%. Weekly passenger numbers peaked at over 45,000 on weeks in November and December 2022, confirming people’s desire to use the improved and enhanced services.
Commenting at today’s launch, Minister Eamon Ryan, said: “Massively improving rural transport is one of my key priorities as Minister for Transport. The Connecting Ireland Rural Mobility Plan, launched in 2021, has already played a key role in towns and villages across Ireland and providing people with new choices to travel by bus.
“But now, we want to go further and build on that success with many more new and enhanced routes planned for 2023.
“It’s clear that when you build it, they will come. We know from last year’s statistics that people respond positively to new routes and services, backed up by our new cheaper fares. Young people, in particular, are choosing to use public transport more which is great. It’s more convenient, it’s more accessible and frequent than it’s been and it’s cheaper than driving and paying for a parking spot all day in college or school. The more people choose public transport the better it is for our environment as well. Public transport, both rural and urban, is a key to Ireland meeting our emissions targets.”
Anne Graham, CEO of the National Transport Authority said: “NTA is proud to launch our Connecting Ireland Rural Mobility Plan for implementation in 2023, which will deliver better access to safe, reliable, and more frequent bus services connecting towns and villages.
“The NTA is continuing its efforts to improve rural bus services by identifying areas that require additional services, and we are committed to continuing to develop connectivity and mobility in rural areas through the phased rollout of new and enhanced bus services this year and in future years.”
The Connecting Ireland Rural Mobility Plan, an initiative of the NTA, is an ambitious programme of enhancements to create a more integrated, accessible and sustainable public transport network for rural Ireland.
The Connecting Ireland Plan continues to have a significant positive impact on rural communities giving people access to high frequency public transport bus services and connecting locations to other regional TFI bus and rail services.
The factors for the growth in Local Link public transport passenger numbers include:
- Connecting Ireland – new and enhanced routes for the TFI Local Link network offering more local and regional connectivity;
- The addition of cashless payment options including TFI Leap and TFI Go; and
- A reduction in the cost of fares – 20% cost of living.
For more information see: Connecting Ireland Phase-2 Implementation Plan 2023