Financial pressures and a steady upsurge in free travel passes brought about by rising unemployment rates are two of the reasons being blamed for the closure of one of Ireland’s oldest bus routes.
Last week, it was announced Whartons Travel is to cease its daily route from Cavan to Longford after more than four decades.
The decision, has led to clamours for a u-turn from local politicians and passengers ahead of its anticipated closure date of March 15.
Speaking to the Leader earlier this week, joint director Andrew Wharton said while he appreciated those concerns, finances dictated otherwise.
“It’s a service that has been going for a long time, for 100 years or so and we (Whartons Travel) have been operating it for 40 years so it’s not a decision we have taken lightly,” he said.
With two outgoing services starting in Cavan and three return services from Monday to Saturday, the route has proven especially popular for those living in and around two of its stop off points-Drumlish and Arva.
Mr Wharton said there was little denying the service’s cessation would hit north Longford households the hardest.
But it is the gradual increase in free travel passes and difficulties in securing increased State funding which ultimately led to last week’s announcement, he said.
“It (bus service) will be a loss to people in that area especially the Longford side where we would have been busier,” said Mr Wharton.
“There has been an increase in free passes and while we do get an allowance from the Department of Social Protection that works out at €57 a day.”
Talks to improve those terms have all but been exhausted he said, revealing the company had now set its sights on extending its reach into the couch tours market.
Mr Wharton was also scheduled on Monday to hold discussions with local politicians, many of whom have this week registered their dismay against the move.
Cllr John Duffy described the notice period given to passengers as too short, while Cllrs Luie McEntire and Martin Mulleady said the news would come as a blow to many north Longford residents who still rely on the service.
While the outcome of those talks were still unknown at the time of going to press yesterday (Tuesday), it would appear one of the oldest chapters in north Longford’s history looks set to close.