Spartan bus services in villages put rural Limerick communities at a big disadvantage

Nick Rabbitts & Norma Prendiville

Reporter:

Nick Rabbitts & Norma Prendiville

Ballylanders lady Maureen Browne, right, with Noreen Meagher. Both face a difficult journey on public transport to get to the city

Ballylanders lady Maureen Browne, right, with Noreen Meagher. Both face a difficult journey on public transport to get to the city

IF Ballylanders woman Maureen Browne wants to get into Limerick city centre for a 10.30am meeting, she has to start her journey at 7.15am.

Her experience is similar to many people across Limerick who have been left isolated by a lack of a regular bus service from the state transport company.

The south Limerick village gets just two weekday buses a day to the city – one leaving at breakfast time, the other leaving back from the city at tea-time.

Bus Eireann is contracted by government to provide the service, which also calls at Galbally, Caherconlish, Herbertstown and Hospital.

However, there are many more villages which do not even get this spartan service.

Maureen, an avid believer in public transport, says: “I live a mile outside the village, so I’d have to get into the village first. I’d set off at 7.15am, and then I’d have to stay around the city until 5pm for a bus home,” she explains.

Miss the morning bus​, she adds, and it’s a €90 taxi journey to the city – if a company is willing to drive that far to collect her.

In some rural villages, Local Link plugs the gap somewhat, but links are poor and scarce.

It’s all about location on rural buses, with some towns and villages enjoying hourly services, due to the fact they lie on major national roads served by intercity Expressway coaches – Patrickswell, Charleville, Pallasgreen, Newcastle West and Abbeyfeale spring immediately to mind. But off the main roads, only a handful of buses stop.

Kilmallock-based Fianna Fail councillor Mike Donegan, who sits on the transport committee, has called for “a bit of joined up thinking” suggesting rural link services could be designated as feeder services to meet the national buses at main roads.

“It’s a very limited service in the county. People are not encouraged to use buses. There are no shelters, the timetables are not displayed publicly. It’s disappointing considering we are moving towards Smarter Travel and trying to get people to cycle and use transport where possible,” Cllr Donegan said.

In West Limerick, the private Dublin Coach, affectionately known as the ‘green bus’ has stepped into the breach somewhat, with 13 buses a day from Newcastle West and Abbeyfeale to the city and onwards to the University of Limerick.

The tricky part of this journey is, inevitably, tail-backs at Adare, both morning and evening, and increasingly in the evening time, at Newcastle West.

Without Local Link, many small villages and communities in the west would have no transport service at all.