Fears for Local Link’s survival

The operator of one of the country’s most successful LocalLink transport providers is fearful for its survival, despite expecting to double his business within three years.

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LocalLink Waterford expects to carry 85,000 passengers by the year-end, having topped 42,260 passengers in 2015 and increasing by 10,522 last year.

Seventeen rural public transport companies nationally provide door-to-door and scheduled bus services in towns, villages, and rural areas. Each is a separate transport co-ordinating unit (TCU), under the National Transport Authority’s 2012 rural transport.

There have been a number of submissions to the NTA, seeking a national review of local public transport policy, the structures and resources, as well as an expansion of the LocalLink model to urban areas, hackney services for rural areas, and bus shelters.

The Waterford service’s manager, James O’Donoghue, said he is concerned that the existing LocalLink providers could lose out in an imminent, four-yearly retendering process.

His own company, despite its expanding success, still operates with just two full-time and one part-time staff.

In a PowerPoint presentation to county councillors in the Dungarvan-Lismore municipal district, Mr O’Donoghue said that establishing principal routes was fundamental.

“It’s the only way people get used to there being services out there,” he said.

Running once-weekly services don’t meet the real need.

“It is easier to fit the more rural ones into it, thereafter.”

Mr O’Donoghue said he also believed night services, on their own, would not meet the real needs of rural and remote areas, and suggested a retained taxi service, in tandem, was the best way forward.

His company, he said, had identified 33 local areas where bus shelters were needed, but were awaiting a response from the NTA to a funding request.

He said bus shelters were vital for displaying timetables and promotional information and for helping the public to organise their trips.

Mr O’Donoghue’s company had first commenced operations in 2003, running seven services on a budget of €145,000. Under the NTA programme, he currently oversees 58 weekly services on 34 routes, on a €1.2m budget.

However, he criticised the existing, four-year contract system as unhelpful towards long-term planning, saying he had no indication as to the Government’s present considerations about the scheme.

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