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Rural dwellers must be included in bus policies

Rural dwellers should not be forgotten about as the Government moves to tackle car dependency. That’s according to Cllr Martina Kinane (FF) who organised a ‘roundtable discussion’ last week to examine ways of improving bus connections for those living in and around Oranmore, Maree, Clarinbridge, Kilcolgan, Kinvara and Gort.

The meeting, which was attended by Minister of State at the Department of Transport, Jack Chambers, heard a number of “short-term, implementable and practical improvements” that could be made to public transport in these areas.

Cllr Kinane said the discussion, involving a number of local representatives and community activists, sought several “tweaks” to existing bus routes.

“I’ve been working on this issue for 18 months and it got to a stage where I felt a roundtable discussion with the relevant Minister would be the most effective way to get our points across.

“The problem we have at the moment is the existing services in these areas are very inadequate. The meeting had representatives from variety of backgrounds and age groups,” said Cllr Kinane.

“They were able to identify the problems to the Minister. For example, in Clarinbridge and Kilcolgan, there is a real need for a better service for students living at home and trying to get to and from college; also, there are people working in the city who want to leave the car at home,” she continued.

The Fianna Fáil councillor said she had recently met with Bus Éireann and the National Transport Authority (NTA) to highlight the lack of transport options around her area and had proposed simple improvements such as increasing the frequency of services and additional bus stops.

“I have made submissions to the NTA seeking increased capacity on the 350 Bus Éireann service [which stops at Galway, Oranmore, Maree, Clarinbridge, Kilcolgan, Ballinderreen and Kinvara].

“I have proposed two additional services at 8.15pm and 10.15pm to suit workers and students coming out of the city,” said Cllr Kinane.

“In Oranmore, on the 404 route from the city, I have proposed that the terminus which is currently across the road from Joyces should be moved up to Oranhill because if a shelter was built there, that bus could serve another three or four estates – it’s very achievable.”

The two-hour discussion with the Minister, which took place at Oranmore Community Centre, also heard issues faced by Gort residents who were badly served by the public transport network.

“The issue we have is that people are being encouraged to leave their car behind but in rural Ireland, for many, it’s not an option.

“Car dependency needs to be addressed not only in urban settings but also rural communities. Owning a car is essential because there is a lack of appropriate public transport,” said Cllr Kinane.

Cllr Kinane said she welcomed the announcement of an overhaul of Galway City’s bus routes last week but suggested that it failed to address the needs of commuters travelling from South Galway into the city.

“I strongly believe it was a missed opportunity not to extend the routes out into the county. I’m led to believe it will be at least two or three years before that plan is delivered anyway, so we need to be looking at what can be done in the short term.

“As I understand it, the money is there to tweak the network in the ways that were suggested to the Minister last Friday in Oranmore, but we need the political will to do it and thanks to the community and local representatives at the meeting last week, Minister Chambers has been fully briefed,” she said.

“Ministers Anne Rabbitte and Hildegarde Naughton were also in attendance, as was Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív, Senator Ollie Crowe, and Cllrs Shelly Herterich Quinn and Albert Dolan. I think that shows how seriously this is being taken,” added Cllr Kinane.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune:

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