*Photograph: Joe Buckley
PLANS for a town bus service in Ennis have been hit with a major setback.
Funding uncertainty has arisen in the National Transport Authority (NTA) regarding the project which had an indicative implementation date of 2025. This uncertainty is blocking the procurement phase of the Ennis town bus service.
Doubt over the future of the service has emerged, despite the NTA previously committing to the project.
On Friday morning, Minister of State at the Department of Transport, Jack Chambers (FF) attended a meeting at Park Inn Hotel in Shannon with Clare TDs, Cathal Crowe (FF) and Violet-Anne Wynne (IND), Senator Timmy Dooley (FF), Mayor of the Ennis Municipal District, Cllr Pat Daly (FF), Cllr Clare Colleran Molloy (FF), Cllr Mary Howard (FG) and Cllr Paul Murphy (FG). Director of Economic Development with Clare County Council, Carmel Kirby and senior executive engineer, Eamon O’Dea were also present.
Deputy Crowe told The Clare Echo he received correspondence from the NTA on Thursday
“outlining what they called a funding uncertainty for 2024 which means that – in their view – they are somewhat inhibited from advancing the procurement phase of a new Ennis town bus service”.
At Friday’s meeting, Chambers explained that in the recent Budget passed by the Dáil, there is a €10m fund allocated to his department for new bus routes and he will be meeting with the NTA in the next few weeks to discuss the spending of this sum.
Meelick native Crowe remained hopeful that the service would be in place for 2025. “I am confident that this will lead to a good outcome for Ennis, but yet we need certainty on this as soon as possible. Ennis, with a population closing in on 30,000, is the largest town in Munster, with lofty ambitions to grow enterprise and retail in the town, underpinned by the motorway network between two major cities and a nearby international airport. The technological university campus also brings a lot of young people into the town.
“If we are to encourage more people to look to Ennis as a place to live and do business, and moreover to leave the car at home and opt for public transport, we will need a decent transport network here. Draft plans for the service include two routes – one travelling east-west and one going north-south, with both wrapping around the town centre. It is anticipated that the total initial cost would be in the region of €800,000 which breaks down as approximately €400,000 per route”.