Major concerns are mounting this week over the county’s Rural Transport Programme (RTP) after it emerged that the Department of Transport is to re-structure the service nationally. A number of people are employed locally under the programme. There are also approximately seven local transport companies involved in the scheme in Co Longford.
The re-structuring, which is part of the Action Programme for Local Government, also aims to reduce staff working on the programme from 108 down to 30.
As part of the re-structuring, the RTP will become a regional service, thereby incorporating eight local authorities within it. Under the proposed new structure, Co Longford will fall into the new Eastern and Midlands Region Unit which also includes counties Westmeath, Laois and Offaly.
In a joint statement to the Leader, CEO, Longford Community Resources Ltd (LCRL) Adrian Greene and Co Longford RTP Co-Ordinator, Seamus Lee said, their concerns centered around future service delivery to the many “loyal passengers” over the last 10 years, given that staff numbers would be reduced and the service would be expected to serve a greater population.
“The proposal states that the existing 35 Community based companies will be replaced by eight regional authorities,” added Mr Greene and Mr Lee. “While we embrace change and the proposed efficiencies in the Rural Transport Programme, the question being asked by most people is will the services be maintained and delivered to the loyal passengers in the same manner as is being delivered at present, under the control of Regional Co-ordination Units?”
In the proposals, the Department states that the purpose of the re-structuring “was developed against a background of need to achieve greater RTP efficiencies, government policy on integrated local and rural transport, and the devolution of responsibility for local services and functions to local government”.
“The proposed re-structuring would result in a saving of €0.48m to the RTP grant, based on the reduction in Manager/Co-Ordinator and Administrator posts,” the Department stated. “The removal of the Development Worker posts would result in a further total saving of €0.25m to the RTP and Community Service Programme (CSP); the analysis has assumed that all driver and passenger assistants would be retained and the proposed restructuring will result in a saving of €0.35m to the CSP.”