Fine Gael are proposing to extend the operating hours of rural bus routes in an effort to crack down on drink driving and to help prevent rural isolation, according to the Independent.ie. 38 routes will be part of the initiative, covering counties such as Cork, Kildare, Kerry, Westmeath, Limerick, Donegal, Waterford, Wexford, Laois, Offaly, Cavan, Monaghan, Longford, Meath and Tipperary. This scheme will pilot for a year, and is a joint venture in conjunction with Local-Link operators. The late-night buses will mainly suit people who are gong to pubs or late-night bingo, as the proposed routes will cease to operate at midnight.
This idea will definitely benefit people who are doing some late-night shopping, or those going for a quiet drink in a pub. It will also benefit commuting students who perhaps want to stay on after lectures to study in the library before they head home. It will ideally combat rural isolation, and hopefully help people get out of their houses more. Perhaps it will also reduce unemployment in rural areas, with more transport links to major towns with more job opportunities. In any case, a better bus service is much-needed, as the current state of public transport in rural communities is dismal.
Ask anyone from the countryside and they will tell you that driving is a necessity. Learning how to drive is an expensive business, and the cost of insurance alone will set you back thousands of euros. This is especially frustrating in a country with a very poor standard of public transport, particularly anywhere outside Dublin.
I live in a small village about twenty minutes from my nearest town. The Bus Eireann service operates every two to three hours, and ceases at six o’clock, with no service on a Sunday. This renders it useless for me who works all day on a Sunday. I also cannot depend on it as it is frequently late with no explanation proffered from the driver. I once waited an hour and half for the bus to arrive. This makes it impossible to rely on it for appointments, to collect school children or to get to work. The government have spent millions trying to keep Bus Eireann afloat, but it is no wonder they are bleeding money when they struggle to run a bus route on time. There are structural problems which need to be dealt with in regard to our national transport service.
Before we launch a new late-night service, it might be beneficial to fix the problems with our existing one. If the new initiative is going to be substandard, with the bus always being late, there is really no point in launching it.
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