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Major changes for rural transport programme

Senator Jimmy Harte.

Senator Jimmy Harte.

SENATOR Jimmy Harte spoke of “a new start for rural transport in Donegal and Ireland’ today after new public transport co-ordination units were announced.

“Im delighted to be informed by Minister, Alan Kelly, who today announced the creation of 18 new Transport Co-Ordination Units (TCUs) across the country as part of a major overhaul of the Rural Transport Programme (RTP).

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The new TCUs will be based where practical in local authorities,
I spoke with Minster Kelly and he confirmed that Donegal will have a TCU which is important for the county.

The Minister met with the Rural Transport network in Donegal recently and took on board their advice and thoughts on the issue. The TCU’s will co-ordinate the running of transport services within their area, and will be overseen by the National Transport Authority (NTA).

They will become a ‘go-to’ point for rural communities to address their transport needs and be staffed by personnel from the existing 35 rural transport programme companies currently in operation.

As part of the reform, each local authority will prepare annual rural transport plans which the TCUs will have to work to. This will give local Government a role in the planning of rural transport provision for the first time.

The news comes as part of a restructuring of the Rural Transport Programme (RTP) and the publication of a report today entitled, ‘Strengthening Connections in Rural Ireland’

“These reforms represent a new start for rural transport in Ireland will enhance the transport offering right across the country. The current RTP is not achieving its potential and it needs a new structure to do this.

We want the RTP to become a permanent and lasting part of the public transport system in Ireland and these reforms will allow us to do this,”
“Access to transport is a major quality of life issue – especially for elderly people. Donegal has been to the forefront of developing the Rural Transport model and this has been recognised by the Minister.

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This will give a lifeline to many communities in tackling the very serious problem of rural isolation and represents a major overhaul of the Rural Transport Programme but one that will lead to major improvements,”
Additional roles will also be allocated to the TCUs such as the maintaining databases of people in rural areas with specific transport needs and assisting the co-ordination of voluntary efforts to address these. Similarly they will also have a role in assessing the needs of isolated areas when it comes to the granting of a new category of hackney licence – the ‘Local Area Hackney Licence’ by the NTA. The new procurement arrangements of the TCUs will be specifically designed to encourage and reward investment by bus companies in fully accessible buses for people with disability.
Gerry Murphy, Chief Executive of the National Transport Authority, the lead agency overseeing the RTP, welcomed the changes saying:“The National Transport Authority is very pleased that there is now a clear path set out to protect and sustain rural transport services into the future. This plan will position rural transport within a national network of integrated public transport and will safeguard those vital transport services that the people of rural Ireland need. New structures will maintain the focus on social inclusion, with stronger links into local policy making by local authorities throughout the country. In summary, the implementation of these proposals will set up a robust structure from which integrated public transport services can develop and grow.”

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