'Drink-link' buses to service 50 rural communities

A new state-funded 'drink link' bus will service 50 rural communities across Ireland.

The bus service will transport rural residents to and from their local pubs between June and December in a bid to tackle rural isolation.

People can also book a place on one of 30 new flexible routes to be brought to and from social events, such as a game of bingo or bridge, or to the pub.

A local link bus. Photo: Local Link Cork.

The scheme will serve 19 counties including Kerry, Cork, Waterford, Kildare, Wexford and Monaghan and will operate predominately at weekends from 6pm to 11pm.

The service will be state-subsidised and will operate as an extension as to Local Link service.

It will cost the government around €450,000.

The pilot programme will run for six months before each route is assessed.

Minister for Transport Shane Ross

"I think it will probably continue after that," Minister for Transport Shane Ross told RTÉ's Morning Ireland today.

We've got 50 applications for routes, we've accepted every single route so they're all going to be tried.

"Some probably won't survive, some probably will. We may extend the routes, particularly to those counties which haven't yet applied, so it'll vary.

It's a very sophisticated, very difficult thing to manage but we're determined that rural Ireland shall benefit from this.

Critics of the service say its timing deliberately coincides with strict new drink driving laws putting first time offenders off the road.

Minister Ross says it is just a coincidence.

"We had a series of meetings with representatives of rural Ireland last year on the issue of social rural isolation and it is a very serious problem independently of the drink-driving bill.

They are running in parallel but the drink-driving bill will go ahead and this will go ahead but totally independently.

The Irish Countrywomen’s Association (ICA) has welcomed the announcement of the extension of evening and night-time transport services in rural Ireland and called on the Minister to expand the scheme to include day time services.

"The ICA is confident that this initiative will prove that these additional transport services are desperately needed in rural Ireland and will go some way to combatting rural isolation and loneliness," a statement said.

The ICA calls on the Minister to ensure that he will secure the additional funding required to expand the scheme in next October’s budget which must include day time services also.

Digital Desk

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