Regional independents call for 'free and accessible' public transport

The Dáil heard claims that public transport services in rural areas are "laughable".
Regional independents call for 'free and accessible' public transport

The Dáil has passed a non-binding motion calling on the Government to provide free public transport.

The Independent Group, a group of regional independents, had called on the Government to introduce "free and accessible" public transport services across the country.

The Dáil heard claims that public transport services in rural areas are "laughable".

The group argued that there has been insufficient investment in rural services, with people still inclined to use their car rather that taking a bus or train.

Independent Michael McNamara said that trying to restrict cars without any viable replacements won't be effective.

The government did not oppose the motion being brought forward.

However, Green Party minister Ossian Smyth said that making public transport free isn't in line with government policy.

"In one region in Talinn, Estonia, that has been mentioned, the OECD has recently recommended that fares be reintroduced.

"The key concern with the issue is that the level of funding required to support free services comes at the expense of investment, and supporting public transport services as both the levels are necessary for optimal existing level of services and for expanding and improving those services," he added.

Speaking on Newstalk, independent Thomas Pringle said it was "very important" that rural Ireland can access "free and effective" public transport.

"People in rural Ireland have no choice but to use a car. For example, Donegal has one of the highest levels of forced car use in the country because, if you want to live a reasonable life, you have to have a car.

"So we need to ensure that rural transport is completely frequent, flexible, reliable and accessible as well," Mr Pringle said.

Addressing the Dáil during the debate on the issue, Labour TD Duncan Smith said that many don't use public transport outside of Dublin because it's too expensive.

It's three times more expensive to get a train from Newbridge in Kildare towards Dublin, compared to getting a service from Naas, he said.

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