By Anne Lucey in Kerry
The first of what it is hoped to be a widespread regular evening public transport bus service to tackle rural isolation in Kerry, which will be able to pick up and deliver passengers door to door, has been launched.
The evening Local Link service will be open to tourists and locals, and not just for going to the local pub.
There was stinging criticism of the National Transport Authority’s Local Link Pilot scheme by Kerry Independent TD Danny Healy-Rae and a furious row in the Dáil when the “drink-link” service was announced in May.
But yesterday, Transport Minister Shane Ross was in Listowel for the launch of the first of seven links for Kerry. Minister of State for Tourism, local TD Brendan Griffin, also officiated last night in Listowel.
Mr Ross urged the public to use it or lose it.
The seven Kerry routes have been welcomed by the county’s Local Link manager as an injection of “confidence” for rural people.
Carmel Walsh, general manager of Local Link Kerry / Kerry Community Transport Ltd, which already co-ordinates 160 routes in rural Kerry, said she greatly welcomes the weekend service, which she said is being seen as “an extension” of the existing network used by 150,000 passengers a year in the county.
An evening at the cinema or St John’s theatre, is now easier for people in rural Listowel, she said. It is a service “open to all” locals as well as tourists and can deviate to pick up and drop off door-to-door, she noted.
“Transport is the prerequisite of sustainable rural communities. It would be Local Link Kerry’s view that all opportunities are explored to ensure that the infrastructure is established to support a comprehensive public transport network in rural areas ensuring that passengers have access to day, evening and night time bus services under the Transport for Ireland (TFI) brand,” Ms Walsh said.
Once the seven services are fully operational the focus for Local Link Kerry will turn to ensuring there are more routes and that it is extended in 2019.
Local Link Kerry’s 160 weekly services, use more than 50 private operators who link up with national public transport services.
The ‘Friday-night-out-in-Listowel route’, launched by Ministers Ross and Griffin covers two loops from the outskirts of the Listowel town into the town centre, starting out at 19.30 and returning from Listowel at 23.15 on one of the routes, with a later schedule on the second.
There are up to nine stated pickup points, but the driver can divert to a customer’s door. Five of the seven evening routes in Kerry will be on Friday nights, with one on a Sunday and one on a Saturday.
50 evening services are being launched nationally.