Ireland’s ‘car dependency culture’ will only increase if we do not invest in public transport now, according to economist Jim Power.

Investment in efficient public transport, particularly throughout rural areas is urgently needed said Power, who warned that if this doesn’t happen, Ireland won’t be able to meet its environmental targets.

“The car culture needs to be addressed in urban and rural settings.

“While public transport in urban areas is still inadequate in most cases, no attempt is even being made in rural Ireland. This has disastrous economic, environmental, and social consequences,” Power said.

The rollout of broadband throughout rural Ireland has been key for avoiding isolation, however, Power said that internet access doesn’t solve every problem and that public transport infrastructure is also urgently needed to keep communities connected.

“Digital hubs in towns around the country are being heralded, and rightly so, but more joined up thinking is required.

“More balanced regional economic growth, the revitalisation of rural towns and villages and the sustaining of life and vibrancy in rural Ireland have allegedly featured strongly on the national policy agenda.

“But the strong words are not being followed up with concrete actions,” Power added.

With an absence of adequate public transport, remote working will not function and a dependency on cars among rural communities undermining the country’s environmental objectives, Power stated.

These are not the only risks of a lack of infrastructure. Power outlined other challenges which include the loss of young people from these areas, as well as the social and economic vibrancy that comes with them.

Power’s comments come ahead of the second international Integrated Rural and Urban Transport Evolution (iROUTE) conference, which is due to take place in Kilkenny on May 5.

The event brings together contributors including transport providers, academic experts, funders, community groups, local development companies and public representatives, and aims to shine a spotlight on the importance of rural public transport policy.