Friday, March 06, 2015

Kilcullen invited to join 'Save Our Buses'

Kilcullen people who use bus services through the town are invited to send representatives to be part of a Working Group trying to deal with the reduction of services by state and commercial operators on the routes through the town, writes Brian Byrne.

The Group was set up by the 'Save Our Buses' campaign after an initial public meeting in Castlecomer, followed by two meetings in Athy. The second of those latter on Thursday night had the bosses of Bus Eireann and the National Transport Authority being told bluntly that they were effectively 'abandoning' rural Ireland. There was no representative from JJ Kavanagh, the other primary, and private operator on the affected routes.

Both Martin Nolan of Bus Eireann and Anne Graham of the NTA committed to cooperating with the Working Group to find a solution. But Mr Nolan was adamant that legislation which prevented Bus Eireann from operating at a loss meant he couldn't commit to retaining services which will be cut at the end of June — a date which is already an extension from the original one at the beginning of the year.

And Ms Graham told the meeting that the NTA under its current remit had no power to force operators to retain routes when they applied for licences to use the motorways instead of the traditional routes through rural towns and villages.

The meeting was attended by political representatives from various parties in Kildare South, Laois and Kilkenny. All presented themselves as on the side of the bus users and their communities and demanded from the Bus Eireann and NTA representatives that a proper, and permanent, solution should be found. After prompting from the floor, the TDs present committed to going to the Minister for Transport en bloc to ask him to facilitate a solution.

The mood of the meeting from the floor was palpably angry, and there were many individual stories of how the already depleted services, and the further cuts planned, make ordinary lives harder. Whether for old and sick people who have to use public transport to get to hospitals for treatment, or students who need to get to college, or non-driving commuters who need to get to work by public transport.

For those interested, users of bus services through Kilcullen or not, your editor has a full report of the meeting in next Tuesday's Kildare Nationalist. We will do more on the matter on the Diary in the weeks to come.

In the meantime, anyone from Kilcullen who wants to register an interest in being involved in the Working Group set up by the Save Our Buses campaign can do so by contacting Cllr Martin Miley Jr on 087 3998478.

The Diary suggests that some of you do. For now, the campaign is being led by bus users from Castledermot, Athy, Ballylinan and Castlecomer. But they're campaigning on behalf of any or all of us who wait at the bus stop in Kilcullen. We should be helping them. If the campaign doesn't succeed, we could in the near future be waiting along the convent wall much longer for our transport.

That there was no councillor at the meeting from the Naas MD to which Kilcullen is now attached suggested that as long as the bus service stops at Naas, there's little representative interest on this issue there. At least Cllr Mark Wall, Cllr Martin Miley and Cllr Ivan Keatley were there with Martin Heydon TD, Sean O'Ferghail TD, and Jack Wall TD, as well as the more Athy based local representatives, for us as well as their direct constituents.

There may be a lesson there ...

NOTE: An immediate response from Cllr Rob Power.
NOTE 2: This post was amended to correct an inadvertent elevation of Cllr Martin Miley to TD status!