Project to tackle ru­ral iso­la­tion. Anna Hayes looks at the pi­lot scheme.

Wexford People - - NEWS -

WEX­FORD’S LO­CAL Link com­mu­nity bus scheme will be op­er­at­ing ex­tra ser­vices as part of a pi­lot project by the Ru­ral Trans­port Net­work to roll out evening ser­vices.

The aim is to cre­ate a com­pre­hen­sive public trans­port sys­tem in lo­cal ar­eas, pro­vid­ing con­nec­tion between vil­lages and county towns. In to­tal, fund­ing for 50 ser­vices was ap­proved, 12 of which will be in County Wex­ford, the best served area in the scheme. It is hoped that the ser­vices will com­mence lo­cally in mid-June and that the num­ber of night and evening ser­vices will ex­tend in 2019, fund­ing per­mit­ting.

A num­ber of routes are al­ready con­firmed in Wex­ford with oth­ers be­ing fi­nalised in the com­ing weeks ahead of the roll-out.

Route 387 from Ross­lare Har­bour to Wex­ford will now have an ad­di­tional ser­vice that leaves that har­bour at 8.30 p.m. on Thurs­day, Fri­day and Satur­day nights, with a re­turn­ing ser­vice leav­ing Wex­ford at 11.30 p.m.

Ac­cord­ing to Lo­cal Link, res­i­dents in Ross­lare ex­pressed great in­ter­est in a ser­vice from town that would fa­cil­i­tate those at­tend­ing arts and cul­ture events and other so­cial ac­tiv­i­ties in Wex­ford. It would also, they said, ac­com­mo­date staff liv­ing in Wex­ford but work­ing in the hospi­tal­ity sec­tor in Ross­lare to travel to and from work.

Route 388 from Welling­ton­bridge to Wex­ford will have night ser­vices ini­tially on Fri­day and Satur­day nights with the bus ar­riv­ing to town at 8.30 p.m. and 11.30 p.m. and de­part­ing at 8.30 p.m. and 11.30 p.m.

These ser­vices will also pro­vide trans­port to a num­ber of vil­lages along the route in­clud­ing: Clongeen, Foulksmills, Cam­ross, Tagh­mon and Barn­town.

Route 368 al­ready runs a num­ber of evening ser­vices, with one leav­ing Bun­clody and trav­el­ling to En­nis­cor­thy at 7.50 p.m. and on to New Ross, ar­riv­ing at 9 p.m. The last ser­vice from New Ross to En­nis­cor­thy, on Mon­day to Satur­day, leaves at 10.50 p.m., ar­riv­ing in En­nis­cor­thy at 11.30 p.m.

Lo­cal Link said this ser­vice was be­com­ing more pop­u­lar with staff work­ing shift work in the re­tail sec­tors in both lo­ca­tions.Pre-booked ser­vices will also fea­ture in the new project.

A Satur­day night pre-booked ser­vice will take in the ar­eas of Hook Penin­sula, Bal­lymitty, and ar­eas along the Dun­can­non New Line Road into Wex­ford, ar­riv­ing in town at 8 p.m. and 11 p.m. with ser­vices de­part­ing town at 8.30 p.m. and 11.30 p.m.

An­other pre-booked ser­vice will op­er­ate into New Ross and to Water­ford city on Satur­day nights. The bus will ar­rive in New Ross at 7.30 p.m. and in Water­ford at 7.55 p.m. It will leave Water­ford again at 11.30 p.m.

Lo­cal Link said: ‘All these ser­vices will suit any­one want­ing to re­main in town af­ter work to so­cialise with work col­leagues and also pro­vide in­ter-vil­lage travel. In ad­di­tion to these routes, there are a fur­ther nine evening ser­vices spread over the county. Timeta­bles for those are cur­rently be­ing fi­nalised and full in­for­ma­tion will be avail­able prior to the start of the ser­vices.’

While the ex­ten­sion of the Lo­cal Link ru­ral tranpsort ser­vice has been dubbed the ‘drink link’ by the na­tional press, Wex­ford VFI mem­bers say that their or­gan­i­sa­tion was not con­sulted at all and they are not sure how the ser­vice will af­fect them.

Tom Dunbar, who is a mem­ber of the Man­age­ment Com­mit­tee of the VFI’s Na­tional Ex­ec­u­tive said the first he knew of the ini­tia­tive was when it was an­nounced by Min­is­ter Ross last week.

‘We know noth­ing about it. There was no con­sul­ta­tion with the VFI from ei­ther the coun­cils or the Depart­ment and no­body knows how it will work. In the­ory, it’s a good idea but we’ll have to see what ef­fect it has in prac­tice. But the Vint­ners were taken aback by the an­nounce­ment as much as any­one.’

He added that the VFI AGM was hap­pen­ing in Done­gal this week and he ex­pected the scheme would be dis­cussed at that.

Wex­ford VFI Chair­man echoed Mr Dunbar say­ing that they knew very lit­tle about the scheme or its op­er­a­tion, but be­lieved it could be ef­fec­tive in tack­ling the is­sue of ru­ral iso­la­tion for older peo­ple.

‘For years they’ve been talk­ing about the older, ru­ral per­son get­ting from A to B and I think it will be good for them. It’s about ru­ral iso­la­tion, rather than get­ting young lads to town and back - they’re not go­ing to go in at eight to come back at 11. But, in the­ory, it should help with get­ting the older per­son to a GAA match or to their lo­cal to so­cialise.’

The NTA plans to have all 50 ser­vices op­er­a­tional by end June 2018, run­ning un­til De­cem­ber 2018 on a trial ba­sis.

The re­sults of the trial will be as­sessed and the con­tin­u­a­tion of these ser­vices will be con­sid­ered in the light of those re­sults and the avail­abil­ity of fund­ing in 2019. The to­tal cost of fund­ing these ser­vices for the 6 month pe­riod in 2018 is €450,000.

Wex­ford Routes that will op­er­ate evening and night time ser­vices, ac­cord­ing to the Depart­ment of Trans­port, Tourism and Sport, are:

Wed­nes­day: Kil­muck­ridge to Wex­ford; En­nis­cor­thy to Wex­ford

Thurs­day: Ross­lare Har­bour/ Strand to Wex­ford; Hook ru­ral area to Fethard-on-Sea; Ban­now ru­ral area to Dun­can­non; Gorey area to En­nis­cor­thy.

Fri­day: Ross­lare Har­bour/Strand to Wex­ford; Welling­ton­bridge to Wex­ford; Cour­town to Gorey.

Satur­day: Ross­lare Har­bour/Strand to Wex­ford; Welling­ton­bridge to Wex­ford; Salt­mills to Wex­ford; Fethardon-Sea to New Ross to Water­ford; Clongeen to Car­rig on Ban­now; En­nis­cor­thy to Bun­clody.

Sun­day: Kil­muck­ridge to Wex­ford.

Lo­cal Link up­dates are posted to Face­book and to www.lo­call­inkwex­ford.ie.

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