Seven new or enhanced bus routes in Galway, serving towns including Headford, Corrandulla, Clifden and Carraroe, have been included in the Government's strategy to improve rural mobility.
The Connecting Ireland Rural Mobility Plan, announced by the Minister for Transport, Eamon Ryan, will also add or improve links between Galway city and locations, such as Ennis and Mountbellew, according to local Fine Gael TD, Minister Hildegarde Naughton.
“This is part of a major investment in rural transport and connectivity, which aims to add 67 new bus routes across the country in 2023 – significantly more than the 38 routes introduced last year,” she says.
“The investment under the scheme is more than doubling from €4 million to €8.5 million this year, and Galway is poised to benefit substantially as seven of the 67 planned routes connect to townlands in the county.
“This strategy is an important step in strengthening services and improving connectivity in more remote areas,” Minister Naughton adds.
The services are being provided on behalf of the National Transport Authority (NTA ) by 15 TFI Local Link offices nationwide, while Bus Éireann will also be a key partner in the delivery of the scheme.
“The services added to date have been a success, notwithstanding the obvious drop in passenger numbers during the Covid-19 pandemic."
In 2019, TFI Local Link services carried 2.5 million passengers, she says, and they have now exceeded the pre-Covid numbers with 2.8 million people travelling on the routes last year.
“More than 45,000 people availed of the services during the peak weeks of November and December 2022,” she adds, while increasing the attractiveness of public transport is also key to meeting emissions targets.
Local routes included in the rural mobility plan for 2023 include a service from Tuam to Galway, serving Headford and Corrandulla. The Clifden-Westport route has also been included, along with two services linking Portumna to Nenagh and Ballinasloe. The bus route between Carraroe and Galway is also in the plan, as well as two services linking Galway to Mountbellew and Ennis.
County councillor Alastair McKinstry has welcomed the announcement made by the Green Party leader at the launch of the Connecting Ireland Rural Mobility Plan for 2023 in Tullamore, Co. Offaly.
“It is wonderful to see this investment in public transport services in Galway. For too long, governments in Ireland have only catered for car-owners, but this is not viable or sustainable for everyone. Since taking office, we have been tireless in offering people real alternatives for getting around," McKinstry says.
"The Green Party has rolled up its sleeves and is investing in making it easier, safer and cheaper to travel around rural Ireland. The lives of ordinary people will be better off for years to come as a result of these decisions.”
The Connecting Ireland Rural Mobility Plan was launched in October 2021. The plan identifies gaps in the public transport network in non-urban areas and proposes options to address these gaps. The push to increase rural routes comes on top of the Green Party’s success in cutting public transport fares by 20 per cent until the end of 2023 and an additional 50 per cent for those using a Young Travel card.
Last fortnight, Minister Ryan also allocated €290m for 1,200 walking and cycling projects across the country.