*Buses en route to the Cliffs of Moher. 

BUS OPERATORS who did not use allocated routes to the Cliffs of Moher should not be allowed to part at the visitor centre, a North Clare councillor has argued.

Cllr Liam Grant (GP) has flagged that numerous bus operators are “using unsuitable roads to travel to tourist attractions in North Clare”.

He urged Clare County Council to contact the National Transport Authority requesting “stricter enforcement of the allocated routes. I would also request that the Cliffs of Moher consider not allowing bus operators who do not take the allocated routes park at the visitor centre”.

Licensed tour operators that visit the county are regulated by the NTA. Under the Public Transport Act 2009, a large number but not all coaches using roads in North Clare are not required to apply for a licence, they are exempt from the Act as private hire services.

Acting senior executive officer in the West Clare Municipal District, John O’Malley outlined, “if there is evidence that licensed tour operators are not complying with the licenses on the routes that they are taking this should be highlighted to the NTA and Clare County Council. The Cliffs of Moher are responsible for managing their facility. Similarly licensed tour operators are required to comply with their licenses and where issues are highlighted this is communicated to the NTA. Not all coaches that visit the Cliffs are licensed due to the nature of their operations”.

In response to this, Cllr Grant questioned what evidence the local authority was looking for and how it could be highlighted properly. “We all know the problem with buses on rural roads,” he stated. Referencing the presence of both Cllr Shane Talty (FF) and Cllr Gabriel Keating (FG) on the Cliffs of Moher Board, he asked if they would “consider taking action”.

Seconding the proposal, Cllr Talty said “a coordinated approach is key. We can keep bringing it up and keep talking about it but if there is evidence which you will see you if park at the cross for a day, who do you give the file to”.

Serious issues surrounding mobility in North Clare have been caused as a result, Cllr Joe Garrihy (FG) observed. “We have north of Ennistymon the most visited and trafficked area for tourism in the county and the most marketed area. We can see there are very problematic rat runs, the most famous is between Kilfenora and Doolin, it is most imminently unsuited road is a hi-way”. He felt “addressing speed limits” was one way to stop satellite navigation systems “sending people down these roads”.

How the Cliffs of Moher Strategy 2040 steers footfall is central to the debate, Garrihy added. “Be smart, invest in main roads and have signposts and speed limits to keep people off the rat runs. Invest on the roads we want people to be on. The focus of our West Clare Greenway is to steer people to our towns and villages to bring an economic impact,” the Lisdoonvarna man stated.

Sat Nav companies are causing “a problem,” Cllr Joe Killeen (FF) agreed. He cited the route off the right of Kilnaboy NS as not having the capability to deal with heavy traffic, “several buses have tried to take the turn to come back and have been caught, inexperienced drivers have suffered greatly with hedgerows in the area. It is something we need to be proactive on. It annoys people in my area”.

Concerns of the elected representatives were acknowledged by senior executive engineer, Enda MacNamara, “we all agree there’s issues in some instances with licenced operators”. He said that local authority staff met with the NTA on the subject of unlicensed operators last year, when incorrect routes are abused the Council is to flag the matter with the NTA, “we have a contact, they have enforcement officers to go to the location and stop the operator where they are using routes they shouldn’t”.

On the spot fines are not possible, MacNamara confirmed. The NTA will have the authority to take guilty parties to court “which can take a year. It is a long, lengthy process”. With two enforcement officers only, the NTA have flagged they have issues with resources. “How often are they in Clare I’d say it is rare enough. They did highlight that it’s a lengthy process, they need very strong grounds to not issue a licence. In general it’s not licence operators, the bigger issue is the unlicensed ones. The speed limit review is next year, I hope that will help with Sat Navs”.

“We don’t have any power is what I think you’re saying,” Cllr Grant replied. “We don’t have enforcement power,” O’Malley clarified. Cllr Garrihy appealed to get further information on the reporting process, “to get the outcome we’re looking for, we need those details”.

Director of Services for Rural Development with the Council, Leonard Cleary commented, “the issues is much bigger than the Cliffs of Moher. The Cliffs will only accept buses that have licences, they haven’t the data to check the means by which the buses came to the Cliffs. If public wish to complain about a bus, they need to complain to the NTA, the indications are that public are not reporting it”.

Cleary said the motion would be forwarded to the NTA along with the reply from the Council and the sentiments expressed by elected representatives. “It’s down to enforcement from the NTA. We rely on the public to give us the information. Just like litter, we need the public to report when it’s happening and we also need them to report when buses are using small boreens”.

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