As Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Deputy Ross will be well aware of the very significant need to address the lack of public transport throughout the country in recent years. Significant work has been done in the major city of Dublin and a considerable number of reviews have examined the best possible public transport model. There has been investment in light rail and new buses and in developing new routes and corridors as the settlement patterns have changed. That is very good and it is the right way to proceed for many reasons but especially from a climate change perspective and the necessity to get cars off the road. That can be done and should be done and the Minister has made significant progress in planning in that regard. The transport sector generally has been way behind in terms of moving away from the burning of fossil fuels and the impact that has had on climate change and our inability to reach the targets that have been set out.
While I know the Government has been making certain plans in that area, it cannot just be focused on major areas of population. Many communities are dotted throughout rural areas, in particular in County Clare, that need additional commuter bus services. I think of areas in west Clare such as Kilrush and Kilkee, and right up along the western seaboard from Milltown Malbay up to Doolin. People travel from there to Ennis, Shannon and Limerick for school, college and work and there is a need to enhance the services. People travel to work from areas in east Clare such as Scariff, Tulla, Feakle and Killaloe to Ennis, Shannon and Limerick and to go to colleges in Limerick. They need an adequate, well-funded public transport service, one which will meet the needs of a developing and changing economy and changing settlement patterns.
It is incumbent on the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport, as the wider transport service delivery in this country is changing, to provide adequate and appropriate investment in services in rural areas. There is much talk in this House about rural decline - the closure of Garda stations, small schools and post offices - and the necessity to try to put in place infrastructure to ensure that people will continue to live in rural areas. Line Ministers often say the population is not there and the service demand is not as great as it was so therefore it is inevitable that businesses will close. The underlying issue is that in many instances we have not succeeded in putting in the appropriate public transport services to make it possible for people who want to live in rural areas, who come from the areas, but who need to commute elsewhere for various reasons. Some young people are not in a position to drive and some elderly people do not want to drive. Other people travel for work.
We must take a holistic approach and put in place an appropriate transport service to meet the needs of all communities, not just those in the more densely populated areas. It should be possible to put in place the appropriate level of service by providing smaller buses and more frequent services targeting those who travel to college and work. That will reduce the volume of traffic on the roads and have a significant positive impact on the quality of life of people who seek to travel in that way and also have a consequent positive impact on climate change by taking more cars off the road. If we can group them together as part of a public transport service, that would prevent people making journeys that are not necessary.