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Submission to

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These include accessing employment, childcare, shopping, collecting social welfareThe need to upgrade existing rail networks and re-establish new ones.

    Submission to:

    DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORT

    RE:

    Statement of Strategy 2008-2010

Contact:

    Seamus Boland

    Irish Rural Link, Moate Business Centre, Moate Co Westmeath. Email seamus@irishrurallink.ie

09064 82744

    086 2491153

September 2007

Introduction

Transport

    ‘The problems of economic dependency, isolation and unequal opportunity are

    compounded by distance from services and amenities. The absence of an adequate

    transport service in many areas makes it difficult, for women especially, to avail

    of training and education. Thus, the provision of transport is a major priority for

    those living in rural areas especially in the context of a tendency towards service

    concentration in larger centres.’ (White paper on Rural Development, 1999)

    In constructing a new Statement of Strategy 2008 to 2010 the Government has amalgamated some functions from the Department of Communications, Marine and Local Government and the Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government. It is clear that such changes should focus the development of transport infrastructure.

    It is not clear if it will improve the access to transport by those with a lack of means or other encumbrances such as ill-health, disability.

    The existing Rural Transport Initiative allied to the pilot initiative to establish an evening service announced by the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht has made an enormous difference to people living in rural areas. However it needs considerable development.

    Equally the development of public transport services based on the provision of transport infrastructure is essential in rural isolated areas.

    From an Irish Rural Link perspective the availability of transport is a key function in determining the sustainability of rural areas. Regional development is dependent on it, as is the ultimate success of the Government’s de-centralisation policy and the National

    Spatial Strategy.

    In preparation for its Strategic Plan 2007-2010 Irish Rural Link having completed a comprehensive survey of rural community needs established the following key challenges.

    ; Invisibility of rural disadvantage

    ; Limited access to Public Transport

    ; The Need for enhanced levels of Community cohesion

    ; Mental Health issues

    ; Limited access to information technology

    ; Limited access to Childcare and Eldercare

    All of these issues are interlinked and dependent on the availability of public transport, which traditionally has been poor in rural areas.

    Transport and access to transport is a cross-cutting issue that affects the lives of most, if not all, people who live in rural and urban areas. However, due to the nature of rural areas and the low density population in rural Ireland access to transport is particularly crucial for many when it comes to carrying out the basic activities of life. These include

    accessing employment, childcare, shopping, collecting social welfare payments, participating in sporting activities, attending hospital appointments, social activities, etc.

    Irish Rural Link acknowledges the investment that has been made by the previous government and the commitments made under the current programme for government for transport services including the funding provided for rail and road infrastructure as well as the commitment shown to the Rural Transport Initiative project.

    Nonetheless, we are now reaching a crucial juncture that requires key decisions in ensuring that rural communities receive the public transport infrastructure and services that it is entitled to. It is also worth mentioning that it is vital that a quality public transport infrastructure is put in place if the government is to meet its commitment to Sustainable balanced regional development.

    It is our contention that any statement of strategy must take into account the following documents and initiatives.

    ; White Paper on Rural Development

    ; Policy on Decentralisation

    ; Commitments under the programme for a government relating to rural and

    regional development and to transport provision.

    ; The roll out of Transport 21

    ; National Anti-poverty strategy.

    ; Disability strategy

    ; National Spatial Strategy

    ; Lisbon Strategy.

    ; CLAR and Rapid Programmes

    ; Rural Social Scheme

    ; Social Economy

    ; Rural Transport Programme.

Allied to this there is a strong need to have regard for linkages to:

    ; Department of Social Welfare in terms of resolving deficiencies in the availability

    of the free public transport to those who qualify.

    ; The Department of Health, because of its dependence on transport provision, for

    people attending outpatient facilities.

    ; The Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht affairs.

Statement of Strategy

    Irish Rural Link believe that any new statement of Strategy should reflect the following issues

1. Balanced Regional Development

    All Government policy documents have accepted the need to achieve ‘Balanced Regional Development’. Irish Rural Link welcomes this and is happy to support any measures which set out to achieve it.

    In the last NDP ending in 2006 considerable resources was made available to improve the whole range of transport networks.

    However, spending on transport was mainly concentrated in the greater Dublin and Eastern region

    According to figures produced by the BMW regional assembly 112% of the projected expenditure on public transport had been spent in the S&E region, in comparison with only 55% in the BMW Region.

The main deficits in infrastructure are:

    ; The need to improve the secondary road Network.

    ; The need to upgrade existing rail networks and re-establish new ones.

    ; The need to review existing Bus Eireann routes with a view to maximise access to

    people in rural areas.

2. Rural Transport Development

Proposal to establish a National Rural Transport Office (NTRO)

    A central tenet of Irish Rural Link’s policy on rural transport is the formation of a

    National Rural Transport Office (NTRO), perhaps within the Department of Transport, which links and supports the development of rural transport within the overall auspices of developing public transport in general.

    The geographical remit of this national office would be all areas outside of the major urban areas. Nonetheless, it would be envisaged that there would be close co-operation with the relevant bodies to ensure smooth integration of various modes of transport around the country including the major urban areas.

    The broad remit and objective of this National Rural Transport Office would be as follows:

     - Co-ordination & Integration of Information

    - Co-ordination & Integration of Services

    - Promotion of Services & Information

    - Quality Assurance

    - Research and Development.

    Such an office would require the establishment of local structures whereby relevant parties such as the RTI Groups, Private Operators, State operators and transport users can co-operate and coordinate rural transport services for the benefit of those most in need at a local level. From a logical point of view, it would make sense that this be done on a county by county basis where the above mentioned parties would ensure that the public transport services are developed within their respective counties. In order for this model to work it is important that all relevant parties are involved and committed to the process.

3. Rural Transport Initiative. (RTI)

    It is our contention that the mainstreaming of the RTI has delivered significant access to people affected by economic and social disadvantage including people living in rural isolated areas. The strategy should reflect this success and commit to its future development including the establishment of transport services for evening and night use.

4. All Ireland Transport Links

    Considerable advancement in the development of transport initiatives and plans in co-operation with the new executive in Northern Ireland are now in train. Irish Rural Link believes that there is a huge need to ensure strong linkages between all transport providers, particularly along the border region.

5. Road Safety.

    Clearly the strategy should and no doubt will reflect all plans to improve all aspects of transport safety. From a rural perspective safety issues relate to the quality of secondary roads and the inconsistent placement of speed limits. It will also need to focus on the establishment of dedicated training centres for young drivers.

    It must be recognised that all drivers, especially young drivers living in rural areas are almost totally dependent on car transport.

6. Environment.

    Again the dependence on the car as the main source of transport in rural areas must be taken into consideration when looking at measures to reduce car use.

    The car is in many instances a necessity and should not be seen as a luxury.

7. Airports

    In order to achieve regional balance, the development of regional airports will over the coming years become central to success.

    The strategy will need to reflect this requirement in a serious way.

Summary notes on existing strategy

Existing Strategy goals Irish Rural Link comments

    Page 6. To underpin Ireland’s economic growth I R L is in complete agreement with this.

    and competitiveness and contribute to social Growth and competitiveness in terms of development through the efficient regional development is extremely sensitive to and effective delivery of an appropriately the existence of a high quality transport regulated, sustainable, safe and integrated network in rural and regional areas.

    transport system. In terms of delivery this means that transport

    provision must be in line with the existing

    National Spatial Strategy.

    It must also take account of the NAPS

    (National Anti- Poverty Strategy) detailing the

    Governments policy towards ending social

    exclusion.

    Page 18. Our Guiding Principles for Integrated Irish Rural Link would agree with all of the Transport guiding principles and would recommend that Policy are set out below they be included in the new strategy.

    ; We will facilitate access… IRL would recommend that the strategy should

    ; We will maintain and improve the also include:

    national network as necessary… The improvement supports necessary to

    ; We will support land use and spatial maintain and develop the Rural Transport

    planning… Initiative.

    ; We will optimise the use of the To take account of The CLAR and RAPID

    network… programmes.

    ; We will strive to minimise the adverse

    impacts of transport activity…

    ; We will contribute to social

    inclusion…

    ; We will influence and take account of

    EU and other international

    developments in transport…

    ; We will implement our policies and

    investments in a coherent and

    prioritised way and in a manner that

    gives value for money

    The National Spatial Strategy to 2020 is a key Irish Rural Link supports this and recommends backdrop to all transport policies and plans. that it is included in the new strategy.

    The Strategy requires that Ireland’s transport

    networks play a significant role in support of

    the achievement of balanced regional and

    sustainable development. It recognises the

    importance of both our internal and access

    transport networks in achieving this objective.

    We will work with the regional and local

    authorities and with the Department of the We would recommend that the Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Community Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs be

    to implement the National Spatial Strategy, added to the list opposite, on the basis that they based on a common understanding of the have a role in delivering the Rural Transport critical interface between transport networks Initiative through POBAL and the fact that they and development patterns on the ground. have responsibility for the

    Working within the framework to 2020, the CLAR programme.

    Department also recognises the practical

    necessity of prioritising different elements

    within the National Spatial Strategy at different

    stages in the 20-year cycle.

    Environment .P16 Must be included

    Continuing investment in infrastructure,

    • streamlining planning and environmental

    approval processes, and

    • improving the regional balance of

    development by progressively implementing

    the National Spatial Strategy.

    More balanced regional development within

Appendix 1.

About Irish Rural Link

    Irish Rural Link (IRL), formed in 1991, is a national network of organisations and individuals lobbying for rural development in Ireland and Europe.

    IRL, a non-profit organisation, has grown significantly since its inception and now directly represents over 300 community groups with a combined membership of 25,000. IRL’s thriving membership is vital when it comes to presenting rural policy before various policy makers and organisations, including the Government. IRL’s membership

    is continuing to grow and IRL, as an organisation, is constantly looking to improve the services that are provided for the members.

    The network provides a structure through which rural groups and individuals, representing disadvantaged rural communities, can articulate their common needs and priorities, share their experiences and present their case to policy-makers at local, national and European Level.

    IRL is the only organisation at the social partnership talks that solely represents rural issues.

    For further information on Irish Rural Link and our work, you can contact our office at:

    Irish Rural Link

    Moate Business Park, Clara Road, Moate, Co. Westmeath.

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