Night time buses proposed for rural Limerick will improve community connections

Norma Prendiville

Reporter:

Norma Prendiville

Email:

normap@limerickleader.ie

The Local Link service operates in east and west Limerick

The Local Link service operates in east and west Limerick

A PROPOSAL to run a night-time bus service, linking towns and villages in both east and west Limerick, is awaiting ministerial approval and funding.

The proposal  is part of a wider pilot scheme to extend the operating hours of 38 rural bus routes in 15 different counties including Limerick, in a bid to allay fears of rural isolation as the drink-driving laws are set to get even tougher.

Anne Gaughan, the manager of Rural Bus which operates the Local Link service in east and west Limerick, confirmed that they had been asked to draw up proposals for a night-time service on weekend  nights on two routes or loops.

But she said, “It can’t happen unless the funds are there.”

Currently, Local Link runs a six-day service, 2357,  which operates on a loop from Kilfinane, through Ballorgan, Effin, Kilmallock and into Charleville, taking in a number of other villages along the way.

 But this service stops at 6pm in the evening. If the pilot scheme gets the go-ahead, the service would operate on Friday, Saturday and Sunday evenings from 7pm until midnight.

Similarly, an evening service up to midnight is also being proposed for the 3101 loop which starts in Newcastle West and connects Ardagh, Rathkeale, Askeaton, Shanagolden, Loughill, Glin and Carrigkerry.

As with all Local Link fares, bus pass passengers would go free, other adults would pay €5 return and children would pay €2.50 return.

Earlier this week, Martin Heydon, Fine Gael parliamentary party chairperson and TD for Kildare South, outlined the proposed pilot scheme and said that his party was “passionate about the potential of rural transport as a way of addressing issues of social isolation”.

“While the drink driving legislation has brought the debate about social isolation to the fore, this proposal is actually about a lot more than bringing people to and from the pub.  This is about connecting our communities,” he continued.

He had been mandated by his parliamentary  colleagues, he explained,  to work with Transport Minister Shane Ross to come up with a solution to try to address the issue of social isolation. The solution proposed involves 38 routes across 15 counties to operate on a 12-month pilot basis.

“They are all existing successful routes that have good passenger numbers during the day. Should the 38 routes see significant demand for the pilot evening service, this is something that then could be rolled out nationwide,” Deputy Heydon said.

It would give people additional opportunities to visit family or friends, go to Bingo or a card game or a match on a summer’s evening, he elaborated. And the beauty of it was that there was no additional capital spending involved.

“At a cost of a little over €1 million, this pilot would provide in excess of 11,000 extra trips per annum around rural Ireland. This figure doesn’t take into account the money that would be collected in fares by local link,” he pointed out.

The proposal has been brought before Minister Ross who has referred it to the National Transport Authority for consideration.

The next stage in the Road Traffic (Amendment) Bill 2017 is expected to be debated in the Oireachtas this Thursday or Friday.

The Bill will introduce a three month disqualification for drivers who previously avoided disqualification because the readings were between  50 and 80mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood. or their equivalent in breath or urine.

“There is no logic to the proposition that in some cases some people should get a waiver on the disqualification and be allowed to pay a €200 fine, get three penalty points and drive on as if nothing had happened,” Minister  Ross said when introducing the second stage of the bill last month. 

“This Bill is about saving lives,” he said, pointing out that it is seven years since the law on drink-driving had been “comprehensively revised and updated”. “It is designed to address a specific failing in our current legislation on drink-driving.”

We all know that alcohol and driving do not mix. Drink driving is one of the most serious causes of collisions, injuries and fatalities on our roads.

 

No one disputes that. There is also general agreement that the law must be firm on drink-driving. It must take drink-driving seriously and it must be seen to take it seriously. It is now seven years since the law on drink-driving was comprehensively revised and updated

There is no logic to the proposition that in some cases some people should get a waiver on the disqualification and be allowed to pay a €200 fine, get three penalty points and drive on as if nothing had happened.