The cancellation of the night-time rural transport scheme will have a critical impact on the members of remote communities who avail of the service, according to Fine Gael Cork South Central Senator Jerry Buttimer.
The scheme, which has been piloted in seven rural communities including two in North and West Cork, will now be terminated denying those who use it access to social contact and vital services.
“The night-time rural transport scheme offers a central lifeline to those who use it and is of crucial benefit to the isolated members of rural Ireland who will be cut off from community life if this link is severed.
“It is the role of Government to promote policies that bolster life in rural Ireland irrespective of cost. However, the cost factor of continuing this service is indisputably offset by the economic benefits achieved in terms of keeping people active in their communities and involved in day to day life.
“The success of this scheme cannot be disputed. In West Cork in 2002, 102 passengers availed of the service in the first month, with this figure soaring to nearly 40,000 in 2008. It is essential that before these services are callously axed the Minister publishes an analysis of the pilot projects so that they’re impact can be critically assessed.
“The Government’s direction in respect of basic rural infrastructure provision is seriously questionable and in no way suggests a striving towards the creation of sustainable rural communities. On top of the axing of the night-time transport service, Bus Éireann has announced plans to cut 220 drivers resulting in the cancellation or scaling back of a further 50 rural routes.
“When will someone shout stop? Elderly people cannot be cut off in this way. Transport policy has been seriously mishandled under the stewardship of Fianna Fáil and as a result rural Ireland is on the cusp of a full scale transport crisis.
“The fortunes of rural Ireland have been cruelly cast aside. In the renewal of the Programme for Government the Minister must ensure that a strong rural transport scheme is put in place. In the interim the night-time rural transport scheme must be maintained. The health and well being of so many depends on it.”