Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan has welcomed a wide-ranging discussion on the future of public rural transport in Ireland at the first Rural Ideas Forum of 2022.

The event, organised by the Department of Rural and Community Development (DRCD), is part of the delivery of the ‘Our Rural Future’ – Rural Development Policy.

Attendees heard about a range of plans that will transform rural transport, connectivity and accessibility for many more people and towns.

Support schemes for rural transport

The plans for rural support include ‘Connecting Ireland’, which will see a 25% increase in rural bus services and will ensure that 70% of people in rural Ireland will have access to a public transport system that provides at least three return trips to the closest larger town.

According to the DRCD, this means that 100 rural villages, will, for the first time, benefit from frequent and reliable public transport. The event also heard about the importance of community led transport and the potential to expand the Community Transport Scheme.

Minister Ryan also spoke about the new ‘Pathfinder Projects’ that he has asked local authorities throughout the country to identify.

environment minister cop26 eamon ryan emissions irish agriculture turf sale
Transport and environment minister, Eamon Ryan

These are innovative sustainable mobility projects and initiatives which can be delivered within the next two years, and which can make an immediate difference to how people move around our rural towns and townlands, according to the DRCD.

Opening the event, Minister Ryan said: “My department’s Connecting Ireland Rural Mobility Plan, in tandem with the Our Rural Future – Rural Development Policy, is strongly committed to improving public transport services in rural areas and to piloting transport initiatives for people of all ages and abilities living there.

“Our vision for rural Ireland is ambitious, and one that is a key priority within the Programme for Government.

“As people start to return to work, school or college after the summer holidays, we are seeing an increasing demand for public transport. But, it’s not enough that this demand is concentrated in our large towns and cities; we have to ensure that people in smaller towns or in townlands around those towns can also benefit from high-quality frequent public transport,” he added.

“That’s the vision and that’s the aim, and I am confident that we will, together, help reverse decades of neglect in this area and leave instead a legacy that will ensure that rural transport can continue to develop and expand.”

The event, which included transport providers, rural support and development groups and residents of rural communities, heard from National Transport Authority (NTA) director of public transport services, Tim Gaston; Deirdre de Bhailís of Dingle Creativity and Innovation Hub; Seamus Boland, chief executive of Irish Rural Link (IRL); and Fiona O’Shea, TFI Local Link manager, Donegal-Sligo-Leitrim.

They spoke on a range of topics relating to the Connecting Ireland Rural Mobility Plan and the provision of transport services in rural Ireland.