The Mayo Green Party has strongly criticised bus and train services in the West of Ireland. The party has highlighted the case of Paul Lynch, a research worker recently employed by the Sustainability Institute. Mr Lynch, who was carrying out important research into renewable energy in Mayo, recently set off back to his home town of Macroom in Co Cork by bicycle.
The journey up from Cork, however, was far from straightforward. Owing to time considerations, Mr Lynch attempted to bring his bicycle to Mayo using public transport. When he contacted Bus Eireann, he was told that the company could not guarantee a place for his bicycle on any individual leg of the journey. Thus, Mr Lynch ran the risk of arriving in Galway or Limerick and not being allowed to put his bicycle on the onward bus northwards.
Mr Lynch elected to travel by train instead, even though this meant travelling via Dublin. All went well until he got to Dublin. When attempting to board the Westport train however, he was told by an Iarnrod Eireann employee he couldn't bring his bicycle onto the train. With only minutes to resolve the situation before the train left for Westport, Mr Lynch sought help from Customer Services in Heuston Station. There he was told he could bring his bicycle on the train, provided the one place allocated for bicycles on the train wasn't already taken. Fortunately for Mr Lynch, there were no other cyclists travelling to Mayo by rail that day.
Andy Wilson, Mayo Greens spokesperson for Energy and Transport, described Bus Eireann and Iarnrod Eireann policy on bicycles as 'Neanderthal'.
"Here we have a ludicrous situation where a brand new train, which we are told is the most 'green' in Europe, can't even carry bicycles. Far from improving the service from Dublin to the west of Ireland, the introduction of this new train has achieved the opposite.”
He went on to slate the bus services in the county.
"Some time ago I wrote to the local Bus Eireann transport manager pointing out how the bus service in Mayo has barely improved since I first caught a bus in the county over 20 years ago. I made a number of suggestions as to how the service might be brought into the 21st century. My proposals included the introduction of a regular service between the principle Mayo towns and also between Mayo and Galway, to facilitate commuters who would prefer not to drive. I never received a reply.
"At present, it is not possible to travel by bus to and from work anywhere in Mayo. Either the first bus leaves too late, or the last one too early. If by some miracle one was able to get to work on time, one would certainly not find a bus on which to get home. Of particular note is the road between Castlebar and Westport, on which several thousand commuters travel every day.
“What I would like to see on this road is a regular shuttle bus, travelling at least three times an hour at peak times and perhaps half hourly during the middle of the day. The service needs to be sufficiently frequent that one can simply head down to the bus stop without reference to the indecipherable timetables so beloved by Bus Eireann."
"I keep hearing the silly argument that it is not economical to provide such a service. Instead we have to suffer our towns being clogged up with cars and car parks, with all the attendant noise and pollution, the loss of green spaces or seating areas, and the extra demand placed on finite resources. I am very disappointed that this issue has not been addressed in the County Development Plan. I would also be very curious to know when any of the elected representatives in Mayo last caught a bus," Mr Wilson added.