Priority Questions - Rural Transport Services

Thursday, 29 September 2011

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 742 No. 1

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  4.  Deputy Robert Troy  Information on Robert Troy  Zoom on Robert Troy   asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport  Information on Leo Varadkar  Zoom on Leo Varadkar   if he is committed to funding the rural transport scheme in view of a recent value for money and policy review [78]and the introduction of a new pilot scheme; when he intends to publish the value for money and policy review; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26788/11]

Deputy Alan Kelly: Information on Alan Kelly  Zoom on Alan Kelly  There is recognition within the programme for Government of the importance of the rural transport programme. My Department is currently exploring efficiencies that can be achieved by bringing together aspects of HSE transport, school transport, the rural transport programme and other transport services. A study of a pilot scheme on the integration of transport services has been carried out and I intend to publish it shortly. A value-for-money and policy review of the rural transport programme has been completed. I have received a copy of this report, which I also intend to publish shortly, following consideration by the Government. The findings of both the value-for-money review and of the pilot scheme are being considered in the context of developing plans for the future delivery of integrated rural and local transport.

Deputy Robert Troy: Information on Robert Troy  Zoom on Robert Troy  Unfortunately, no real answer has been provided to my question other than that a review is being carried out. The rural transport scheme is a very significant and important scheme, especially to smaller communities, from which I come myself. The scheme is of great advantage to the less well-off, the marginalised and elderly. It gives them an opportunity to travel that they would not normally have if the scheme were not in place. Could the Minister be a little more specific and state when the reviews will be published? People are worried.

Will the scheme be protected in the upcoming budget? People are worried about this. It is a good idea to consider amalgamating the various travel schemes but we need to have answers. I am disappointed that the Minister said today I should wait another few weeks, at which time he might revert to me.

Deputy Alan Kelly: Information on Alan Kelly  Zoom on Alan Kelly  I probably come from a smaller rural community than Deputy Troy and, therefore, am very conscious of and passionate about this issue. I fully intend to support transport services in rural areas because I know their value very much.

The two reports will be published very shortly. The issues that will transcend not just the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport but also other areas are being considered. In particular, we are examining school transport, transport related to health services, particularly HSE transport, and issues pertaining to voluntary and community transport services that are being provided. In that context, the issues transcend the Department and the need to consider this.

The commitment is in the programme for Government and the Government is determined to deal with it in the short and medium terms. It is a priority for the Government.

The rural transport scheme has provided great services in rural Ireland, which have been quite successful in some areas and less successful in others. Many of the people who operate these services are determined to provide rural areas with good transport services. However, it is necessary to examine how we can bring together bus services, whether provided by Bus Éireann or community or voluntary groups, and examine all other services in an area so there can be greater connectivity while we make the money we have go further.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Michael Kitt  Zoom on Michael Kitt  I must interrupt the Minister of State because Deputy Troy is entitled to ask another question.

Deputy Robert Troy: Information on Robert Troy  Zoom on Robert Troy  I am glad the Minister of State shares my opinion that this is a very worthwhile scheme and that he will do all in his power to protect it. He has gone from pub[79]lishing the reports soon to publishing them very shortly. I would like an indicative timeframe. Are we speaking about three weeks or three months? Where is the pilot scheme being carried out and what are its findings? How has it worked so far?

Deputy Alan Kelly: Information on Alan Kelly  Zoom on Alan Kelly  The reports will be published in the coming weeks. The pilot schemes are in the north west and north east. The findings are contained in the reports and when they are published the Deputy will see them. There is value in integrating services in rural areas and there is value in examining school transport and HSE transport. I would have preferred if the previous Government had considered a different range of questions as part of the programme but I intend to address this matter in a renewed pilot scheme.

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