Council to play greater role in public transport

Westmeath County Council is to act as the local transport authority for counties Westmeath and Longford, under new plans unveiled by the National Transport Authority.

The new transport coordination unit (TCU ) will be responsible for managing demand for public transport across the two counties, including the transport needs of socially disadvantaged areas and rural transport.

Anne Graham of the National Transport Authority outlined the development to councillors at last week’s Westmeath County Council meeting. Eighteen new TCUs are to replace the 35 authorities currently involved in coordinating public transport.

While welcoming the increased role of the local authority, councillors expressed concerns about some of the areas of the county where public transport is lacking.

Cllr Aengus O’Rourke was anxious for the town bus service in Athlone to be maintained, while Cllr Paul Hogan requested that the local service for Garrycastle be reinstated.

Meanwhile Cllr Mick Dollard said there are very few transport links between Mullingar, Athlone, and Tullamore, and a “major public transport deficit” in Mullingar.

Ms Graham said the Athlone town bus service was among the services to be reviewed, with a view to improve rather than reduce the service.

She said the new TCU would strengthen the council’s decision-making role in public transport provision.

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