Wexford to get 12 night bus services in new rural plan
Project to tackle rural isolation. Anna Hayes looks at the pilot scheme.
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; Fethard-on-Sea to New Ross to Waterford; Clongeen to Carrig on Bannow; Enniscorthy to Bunclody.
Sunday: Kilmuckridge to Wexford.