Thursday, 7 March 2013

Questions (267)

Nicky McFadden


267. Deputy Nicky McFadden asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport his plans for the delivery of rural transport in County Westmeath in 2013; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12121/13]

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Written answers (Question to Transport)

Westmeath Rural Community Transport Association Ltd has been allocated €129,353.00 of the 2013 RTP budget from January to June 2013, with a further proposed, allocation of €129,353.00 from July to December. Additionally, €32,234.50 of Free Travel Pass funding has been allocated to Westmeath Rural Community Transport Association Ltd from January to June, 2013, with a further proposed, allocation of €32,234.00 from July to December. This represents a total 2013 allocation of €323,174.50, of combined RTP and FTP funding for the provision of the RTP service in Westmeath.

My aim is to strengthen the RTP by ensuring a more efficient delivery structure by maximising integration with other state transport services and by making  the programme a sustainable part of the public transport system. This is in line with the Programme for Government commitment to maintain and extend the RTP with other local transport services.   Since becoming Minister for Public and Commuter Transport the developments I have initiated have been aimed at ensuring that into the future there is a more complete and cost effective transport service offering in rural areas that better meets the transport needs of all users. To this end national responsibility for local and rural transport services integration, including the RTP, was assigned to the National Transport Authority (NTA) with effect from 1 April 2012, putting such services in a broader transport context.  I also established the National Integrated Rural Transport (NIRT) Committee in April 2012, comprising key stakeholders and chaired by the NTA, to oversee and manage a partnership approach to implementing integrated local and rural transport.

I am well aware of the very valuable work done by the RTP Groups in identifying and delivering the transport needs of their local community.  However, given  resources are limited and that the Value for Money and Policy Review of the RTP, published last year, recommended organisational restructuring to achieve efficiencies and the better alignment of the 35 RTP groups with local authorities, it is necessary that the current delivery mechanisms and structures are examined and revised. To not do this would mean that vital services would be threatened. The current structures of the RTP are not sustainable if the required efficiencies and savings are to be achieved. If these are not achieved then with the limited resources available services will decline.

Work is underway to determine the optimal structure for the delivery of rural transport from an efficiency and service perspective. One of the proposals being examined is that the RTPs be "aligned" with local authorities and that a number of Coordination Units be established.  I would emphasise that no decision has been taken but I am hopeful that I will be in a position to recommend a new structure later this year which will allow for the maximising of spend on services and the reduction of administration costs.

I will be ensuring that any future structure for the RTP will be based on community input, local flexibility and involving the voluntary sector.  Rural Transport by its nature is community-based and this will remain under any new structure.   While I can understand and fully appreciate that this restructuring creates a level of uncertainty for RTP groups, I am hopeful that the outcome will be a better service delivered more efficiently. I will work with all involved over the coming months to make any transition as smooth as possible.