New Mullingar Athlone bus service announced

A new bus service between Mullingar and Athlone via Castletown Geoghegan is one of 67 new or enhanced services announced today (Friday) by Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan.

The new 819 service will be operated by Longford Westmeath Roscommon Local Link on behalf of the NTA, as part of what the Department of Transport is describing as “one of the most ambitious plans yet for rural transport, strengthening existing services and connecting more towns and townlands across the state”.

The news about the new service has been welcomed by Deputy Robert Troy.

“It is always good to see new routes opening up and I would like to see more. If we want people to move to public transport then we have to ensure public transport is frequent, reliable and affordable.”

Commenting at today’s launch of the Connecting Ireland Rural Mobility Plan for 2023 in Tullamore, Minister Eamon Ryan, said: “Massively improving rural transport is one of my key priorities as Minister for Transport. The Connecting Ireland Rural Mobility Plan, launched in 2021, has already played a key role in towns and villages across Ireland and providing people with new choices to travel by bus.

“But now, we want to go further and build on that success with many more new and enhanced routes planned for 2023.

“It’s clear that when you build it, they will come. We know from last year’s statistics that people respond positively to new routes and services, backed up by our new cheaper fares. Young people, in particular, are choosing to use public transport more which is great. It’s more convenient, it’s more accessible and frequent than it’s been and it’s cheaper than driving and paying for a parking spot all day in college or school. The more people choose public transport the better it is for our environment as well. Public transport, both rural and urban, is a key to Ireland meeting our emissions targets.”

Anne Graham, CEO of the National Transport Authority said: “NTA is proud to launch our Connecting Ireland Rural Mobility Plan for implementation in 2023, which will deliver better access to safe, reliable, and more frequent bus services connecting towns and villages.

“The NTA is continuing its efforts to improve rural bus services by identifying areas that require additional services, and we are committed to continuing to develop connectivity and mobility in rural areas through the phased rollout of new and enhanced bus services this year and in future years.”

Last year, Connecting Ireland delivered 38 new and enhanced bus services across various counties, bringing new bus services to 67 additional towns. In 2022 almost €4m was invested in implementing Connecting Ireland bus services, but this year that figure will double to €8.5m provided by the Department of Transport and NTA.

The response by customers to new services in rural Ireland has been very strong, with passenger numbers on buses returning to pre-Covid levels. This is particularly the case on TFI Local Link services in rural Ireland. The annual passenger journey figure for 2019 was 2.5m. Covid had a serious impact on passenger numbers in 2020 and 2021, but in 2022, they rose to 2.8m, a recovery of 112%. Weekly passenger numbers peaked at over 45,000 on weeks in November and December 2022, confirming people’s desire to use the improved and enhanced services.