The Connecting Ireland plan was launched on Friday 29th by CEO of the National Transport Authority (NTA) – Anne Graham, Minster for Transport – Eamon Ryan and Green Party TD for Wicklow – Steven Matthews in Brockagh Resource Centre in Glendalough. The Connecting Ireland plan is a major national public transport initiative developed by the NTA with the aim of increasing public transport connectivity, particularly for people living outside major cities and towns. Discussing the launch, Deputy Matthews said:
“This is very welcome progress on a key green party objectivein the programme for government that committed to improving rural transport options, interconnectivity between towns and villages and making public transport a genuine option for those who live in rural areas.
“I frequently have conversations with people from South and West Wicklow in particular that don’t want to use their cars as much as they do and would welcome the opportunity to accessa frequent and reliable bus option but in many areas this does not exist. The Connecting Ireland plan being launched by Minister Ryan is about putting in place the bus infrastructure in areas that have been highlighted as needing a service by the NTA through their consultation with stakeholders including transport operators and Wicklow County Council amongst others.
“Work has been ongoing on this plan since 2019 so much of the groundwork is already in place. The NTA has completed a comprehensive assessment of the existing network of regular public transport services operating across the country. This gave a clear idea of the gaps in service, the need to ensure that public transport caters for a range of functions and is not just for commuting to work or education and the need to improve integration of timetables so that connections between transport options are more viable.
“As it stands, 2 in 5 villages are not connected to their nearest big town by any sort of public transport service and we need massively improve this– not only as a basic public service but the knock on impact of getting people out of their cars and shifting attitudes in this way will reduce car dependence and have a very positive impact on our carbon emissions.
“Once the connecting Ireland plan is fully implemented, we need to think about rural public transport as an overall service and not just during rush hour times for commuting. Whether its shopping in the town during the day, going for a meal or a drink in the evening, if a reliable bus service is available –it will be used. There will be a natural teething period and it will be about building trust with residents but once the service is reliable and offers a practical timetable that links up with other public transport options, the demand will be there.
I look forward to continuing to work with the NTA and local residents to progress the Connecting Ireland plan as quickly as possible, it’s very important that we don’t see any delays down the road. This strategy is part of a wider transport plan for Wicklow that I am actively engaging with the NTA on which includes the LUAS to Bray, the DART to Wicklow town and the express buses for the N11. The Green Party were integral in having these projects kept in the National Development plan and I will continue to work towards getting these projects completed, concluded Deputy Matthews.