Oireachtas report finds ‘uneven’ transport services in rural areas

Transport services and infrastructure in Ireland is “uneven”, with rural western areas losing out to the east, according to a report from an Oireachtas committee.

According to the Joint Committee on Rural and Community Development, Government departments and other agencies must “work together to ensure planned rural transport projects are funded”.

The report, published today, Wednesday, July 17, makes several recommendations on how this can be achieved.

For too long, infrastructural development has been concentrated in the east. This has resulted in a situation where all roads lead to the capital, but there is poor connectivity between regional areas.

Clare Fine Gael TD Joe Carey, who is the chairperson of the committee, said: “The inherent social and economic potential which exists in rural areas has often been overlooked. This has led to a situation where there has been uneven distribution of public transport services in rural areas.

“As well as this, there has been a lack of joined up thinking about transport service provision and connectivity in the regions,” deputy Carey added.

The committee calls for increased funding for national, regional and local roads, and that Government departments work together to ensure that the funding, rather than just planning, is provided.

The committee is also suggesting that the price of a journey on a train or a bus needs to be the same per kilometre in rural areas as it is in urban areas.

Among the report’s recommendations is a specific call to: “Identify and fund new infrastructural developments to resolve over-concentration of road development and public transport in the east of the country.”

The report has come about following nine hearings, between the committee and various stakeholders, on the issue of rural connectivity, which took place from 2016 to 2019. A separate report focusing on rail transport in rural areas is set to be released later this year.

The recommendations included in the report are:

  • Increase funding for national, regional and local roads;
  • “Develop synergies” between all Government departments with rural transport responsibilities;
  • Provide morning-to-midnight commuter services linking rural towns to urban areas;
  • A change to the subsidies system for public service operators (PSO) to ensure train and bus fares are the same per kilometre in urban and rural areas;
  • Identify and fund new developments to resolve over-concentration of road development and public transport in the east of the country;
  • Develop expansion plans for Local Link services;
  • Include in national transport policy an assurance that services are provided to create demand rather than purely to respond to demand;
  • Expansion of rural, local and regional bus networks;
  • Increase Government funding to the Western Development Commission;
  • Inclusion of the Western Rail Corridor in any policy as a component of any transport development in realising the potential of the western region;
  • Urgently address insurance and regulation issues surrounding new rural transport initiatives;
  • Map out bus route services in all counties and regularly update and publish them in consultation with local communities.