The National Transport Authority (NTA) has released its report on the Rural Transport-funded evening and night-time services for the year ending 2019, revealing that 55 performing evening services are now mainstreamed for funding within the Rural Transport Programme.
An initial six-month pilot, running from June to December 2018, was extended twice to gather more information on passenger trends and usage: first until 31 March 2019, and second until 31 December 2019. Of the 65 services, 23 were extensions to regular public transport services and 42 were demand-responsive services. Services were provided nationally across all 26 counties and ran on average from 6 PM – 11 PM on Friday and Saturday evenings. Ten of the originally approved demand-responsive evening services either did not commence due to local circumstances, or were subsequently cancelled due to poor patronage levels.
After the third pilot finished in December 2019, it was established upon review by the NTA that all existing performing Rural Regular evening services and all performing Demand Responsive evening services are now to be mainstreamed and have been budgeted for by the Authority in 2020, totalling 55 services.
Evening patronage figures more than doubled from January to reach a peak in July and August. Local Link Waterford Tallow to Dungarvan service Route 363 and Local Link Wexford Rosslare to Wexford service Route 387 recording the highest number of evening trips in the country, followed closely by Route 883A Newbridge to Athy in Local Link Kildare.
Other routes recording high evening trips were Route 983 Kinlough to Bundoran, Route 865 Granard and Longford, Route 361 Ardmore to Dungarvan, and Route 293 Glencolmcille to Donegal town.
The routes with the highest proportion of evening trips, between 9% and 15%, are all town-to-town services between a larger town and a smaller town, which possibly indicates that they are being used by passengers living in smaller towns but who may be working or socialising in nearby larger towns.
Margaret Malone, Rural Transport Manager, said:
“We are very encouraged by the findings in this report and what they indicate about the transport habits of those living in rural areas.
During summer in particular, it is clear that demand exists for services well into the evening, and the Rural Transport Programme is well positioned to provide local residents with late-night transport.
With the continuation of 55 evening services in 2020, we hope the trend of evening travel will continue to serve residents well.”
The report is available to view on the Local Link website here.