Major changes to the Rural Transport Programme (RTP) could put an end to ‘door to door’ services as new regional Transport Co-ordination Units (TCUs) are established.
The Leader understands that the Programmes in Longford and Westmeath will be amalgamated and become a new TCU service that will cover both counties.
Minister Alan Kelly made the announcement yesterday morning. He said that 18 new new TCUs would be established across the country “as part of a major overhaul of the RTP” and they would become a ‘go-to’ point for rural communities to address their transport needs and be staffed by personnel from the existing 35 rural transport programme companies currently in operation.
A local source said that the move was nothing less than what was expected after a leaked document on the matter made its way into the public domain earlier this year. “Really this is about the integration of services, so that everybody works together,” the person added. “The door to door aspect of the service is very important and it would be very necessary to hold on to that aspect, if at all possible.”
RTP was established in 2007 but evolved from local initiatives commissioned previous to this. Its remit was to provide public transport provisions for rural areas where none existed. It was established in Co Longford in 2003 and just recently celebrated its 10th anniversary in Granard, Nationally, the service carries out over 1.3 million passenger journeys a year at an overall exchequer cost of €10m.
RTP is run by 35 independent companies, however a Value for Money review published in 2012 demonstrated that the Rural Transport Programme had a very poor organisational structure with exceptionally high administration costs.
“The new TCUs will be based where practical in local authorities, will co-ordinate the running of transport services within their area, and will be overseen by the National Transport Authority (NTA),” Minister Kelly continued. “Access to transport is a major quality of life issue – especially for elderly people. This overhaul will give a lifeline to many communities in tackling the very serious problem of rural isolation.”