I have to admit a slight bias in this matter in that my mother grew up in Macroom and I spent my childhood holidays on the banks of the River Sullane visiting my grandparents. As Minister, I have responsibility for policy and overall funding in regard to public transport. However, I am not involved in the day-to-day operations of public transport. That is the responsibility of the NTA in conjunction with public transport operators.
The NTA has statutory responsibility for securing the provision of public passenger transport services nationally and the development of an integrated, accessible public transport network. The authority also has national responsibility for integrated local and rural transport, including management of the rural transport programme, RTP, which now operates under the Local Link brand. Local Link public transport services comprise both demand-responsive transport, DRT, door-to-door services and conventional fixed services.
In this context, the authority seeks to deliver an efficient, accessible and integrated public transport system in both rural and urban Ireland. It funds public bus services in rural areas through its public service obligation, PSO, arrangements, mainly with Bus Éireann and through the Local Link service.
I understand that the Deputy's question relates to a number of PSO services in Cork that are operated by Bus Éireann, namely, the 233 Macroom to Cork route, the 235 Rylane to Cork route, the 236 Castletownbere to Cork route, the 239 Butlerstown to Cork route, and the 243 Newmarket to Cork route.
Having consulted the NTA in regard to future service plans, I can advise the Deputy that there are no specific plans at present to increase frequency on the routes in question. However, it is important to note that the authority keeps the network of bus services operated by Bus Éireann under regular review and consideration of increased services is part of that review process.
In regard to Macroom specifically, my understanding is that there were plans for the expansion of services in 2020. Unfortunately, those plans were put on hold, similar to many other projects, as a consequence of the Covid pandemic. My understanding is that the Macroom route will again be taken into consideration. Any development in that regard must fit within the policy approach being taken by the NTA and Local Link services in resect of all routes and the assessment of which will be put forward for prioritisation. I can see the good logic in the proposals for Macroom. Given the plans to proceed with the Macroom bypass project, it makes sense, at the same time, to take steps to deliver high-quality public transport services.