THE new carbon tax should have a portion ring-fenced to fund a replacement for Bus Éireann in rural areas, an Oireachtas Committee has said.
The rural affairs’ committee has produced a report which said control of the service was confused and needed to be consolidated with one decision maker – the Department of Transport.
The Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs should be removed from the equation, it said.
Author of the report, Michael Ring TD, said the carbon tax represented a new fund that rural communities had to stake a claim on. He said the committee could not calculate an overall cost of providing a comprehensive service to isolated areas because it would depend on uptake. The sercvice cost €11 million in 2008.
“This is one chance that we have now. If we don’t put a claim to the carbon tax now we are going to be in difficulty.
“Here is an opportunity. Carbon tax is going to affect rural people more and rural people want to know what services they will get for it.”
Mr Ring said Bus Éireann had failed rural Ireland and did not provide services to villages off main roads.
He said voluntary and community-based organisations would be better equipped to adapt services to meet local needs.
He denied he was looking for a bailout for bad planning and said rural life had to be protected.
The committee recommended vouchers for taxi services if bus services could not be organised. It also said regular services between villages and towns should be put in place.
Committee chairman Tom Kitt said it was more expensive to travel in rural areas but transport planners could not escape the fact that a large proportion of the population lived in the countryside.
He said groups such as Irish Rural Link were the preferred vehicle, and not Bus Éireann.
Committee member Mary White said rural communities could not “live as hermits” and the Government, which she is a member of, needed to drive the committee’s proposals forward.
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