Minister Kelly announces major new plans to integrate rural transport services

Issued : Tuesday 28 February, 2012

Minister of State for Public and Commuter Transport, Alan Kelly has today announced major plans for the integration of rural transport services.

Over €200 million a year is spent across various state bodies on transport services in rural areas between the Rural Transport Programme, School Transport and HSE non-acute transport but with no official co-ordination between them.

The new plans, approved by Government, will see the integration of all state transport services in rural areas, based initially on up to six pilot areas, with a view to creating a more co-ordinated service nationally. Minister Kelly will establish a high-level committee to oversee the initiative that will be led by the National Transport Authority.

"We have to think more creatively about how we provide transport in rural areas. Transport access is vital and could be delivered in a better manner. The focus here is to eliminate cross-over and duplication of services and to create a better service for the public in general. We have seen a recent example in Donegal where 25% was saved on transport costs of the local health service by working with a rural transport group, already financed by the state. We need to see this type of effort on a national basis," stated Minister Kelly.

The National Transport Authority (NTA) has now assumed a national role for integrated local and rural transport. A new high-level committee will be established by the Minister to oversee the pilots and the future integration of services.

The high-level committee will consist of representatives of National Transport Authority, Department of Education, Department of Health, Bus Éireann HSE, Local authorities, Rural Transport Groups, Pobal and the Department of Transport, Tourism & Sport.

"The pilots will be designed to identify the optimum way to deliver a strong, co-ordinated service and bring good value for money for the taxpayer. We are also ensuring that there will be strong transport expertise as we try to tackle the problem of rural isolation of which access to transport is a major component. This is a major Government priority" added Minister Kelly.

The move follows a value for money (VFM) review of the rural transport programme that highlighted the need for a reduction in administration costs associated with it and the need for more transport expertise to be involved in service provision. The implementation of the report's recommendations will be overseen by the NTA.

"The VFM clearly shows a need to a do things differently when it comes to rural transport. While the Rural Transport Programme does excellent work, it is clear that under the previous Government, the State was not getting bang for it's buck when it comes to the RTP."

The Minister added "The Rural Transport Programme, although funded by my Department has evolved from a strong local community and voluntary ethos and I am anxious that these core principles remain at the heart of local and rural transport going forward."

The Minister concluded "Integrated local and rural transport is a priority for the Government and I intend to take a very active role in pushing this forward as quickly as possible."

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