The lack of public transport is a social and economic ‘disaster’ for rural Ireland, according to the conference

Failure to provide public transport to rural areas will have disastrous social and economic consequences, the government has warned.

Economist Jim Power said rural communities and key coalition policies would grind to a halt without proper investment.

“Remote work will not work, car culture will continue to undermine environmental goals, and rural areas will be stripped of young people and social and economic dynamism,” he said.

“It’s time to take a revolutionary approach to the delivery of public transport.”

Mr Power spoke at the international iRoute conference in Kilkenny, which was heard by experts from the fields of transport, social policy and rural development.

The key message was that good transport in rural areas prevented many problems and solved many others.

“To live in rural Ireland, a car is essential for socializing, shopping and getting to work,” Mr Power said.

“Not only does it impose higher costs on rural residents, but it also goes against Ireland’s so-called environmental agenda.

“Car culture and car dependency must be addressed in both urban and rural settings.

“While public transport in urban areas is still inadequate in most cases, in rural Ireland not even trying.

“This has devastating economic, environmental and social consequences.”

The conference heard from Tim Gaston of the National Transport Authority that major plans to increase and expand bus services for village and small town communities were about to be introduced.

Under the Connecting Ireland plan, every village is to have a bus service at least three or four times a day, conveniently linked to towns and cities.

The plan has a five-year timeline, but a small number of new services are scheduled to begin within a few weeks, and more will be added later this year.

Mr Gaston said Ireland’s highly dispersed population makes providing satisfactory services a challenge.

“We don’t live in towns or communities like in other parts of Europe. More than half of the people here in Kilkenny, for example, don’t live in urban areas,” he said.

Hildegarde Naughton, Secretary of State for Transport, told the gathering she was confident the right framework was being put in place to improve services.

“This will improve people’s quality of life and allow the rural transport program to grow and develop into the future,” she said. The lack of public transport is a social and economic ‘disaster’ for rural Ireland, according to the conference

Fry Electronics Team

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