Pressure is mounting on the National Transport Authority to reverse it’s decision to award the TCU contract for Clare Bus to Limerick Local Link as opposed to Clare Accessible Transport.
A delegation from East Clare travelled to Dáil Éireann on Wednesday to present a petition with 6,438 signatures to the Minister for Transport, Shane Ross demanding the service be returned to Clare Accessible Transport.
Two local election candidates, Cllr Pat Hayes (FF) and Barry O’Donovan of the Green Party were among the delegation with Clare Accessible Transport management plus Clare Tds, Dr. Michael Harty (IND), Timmy Dooley (FF) and Joe Carey (FG).
Barry O’Donovan hit out against the proposed changes. “One of the strongest points of the Clare Bus service is the close integration that exists between drivers and dispatchers, allowing users to book the service as little as one hour before departure. Clare Bus serves a widely dispersed population, many of whom have limited mobility, so the flexibility it offers can make the difference between getting into town or being stuck at home. The idea that the NTA would disregard this in order to make it easier for them to manage service providers is deeply frustrating. There is a complete lack of regard for the realities of rural life.”
Clare Accessible Transport (CAT), based in Feakle employs 25 staff. The awarding of the TCU contract to Newcastle West based Limerick Local Link has prompted concern about the future of 7 jobs provided by the unit in Clare. The availability for booking journeys will also be reduced from six days to five and there is concern that the minimum booking time will increase from one hour to one day.
Since 2003 Clare Bus has also offered a non-medical transport service to HSE service users with the local TCU providing support handling bookings. It is unclear if this level of service integration will be possible under the new service and this may lead to an increased demand being placed on ambulance transport services.
Green Party candidate for Ennistymon Róisín Garvey added, “Very many people in rural Ireland are totally isolated and the few transport services we have are under threat. We need the decision around Clare Bus to be reversed. Local bus services are the life blood of the community; they give older people a way to get out and about and they allow younger people who are unable to afford car insurance to get places. They also keep local businesses, pubs and restaurants, alive by delivering customers.
Senator Grace O’Sullivan, Green Party EU candidate for Ireland South, “Rural public transport has been neglected for far too long. It is too often the case that the decisions that impact on public transport in rural areas are made in offices far removed from the areas in question by people who will not be affected by the consequences. The recent decisions effecting Clare Bus are just another example of this. It makes sense for local transport networks to have a strong grass roots connection with their local customers. Any decision that moves away from this will inevitably be to the detriment of the service being provided.”
Pick up this week’s Clare Echo available all over the county for FREE as Páraic McMahon heads aboard a Clare Bus service to meet the users that may be affected as a result of the looming changes.