DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORT
Statement of Strategy 2008-2010
Irish Rural Link, Moate Business Centre, Moate Co Westmeath. Email firstname.lastname@example.org
‘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
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.