The Minister for Transport has responsibility for policy and overall funding in relation to public transport.
The National Transport Authority (NTA) has statutory responsibility for securing the provision of public passenger transport services nationally. The NTA also has responsibility for local and rural transport, including the management of Rural Transport Programme (RTP) which operates under the TFI Local Link brand.
Public transport in rural areas of the country is primarily provided by bus and coach services, including Public Service Obligation (PSO) services operated by Bus Éireann and other operators, Bus Éireann Expressway services, TFI Local Link services and licensed services provided by commercial operators.
TFI Local Link services comprise Demand Responsive Transport (DRT) door to door services, open to all, which respond to local demands and increasingly, conventional fixed services with regular routes, stopping places and timetables. While delivery of DRT services remains a cornerstone of Local Link, in recent years, a local demand has been identified by Local Link offices and the NTA for higher frequency scheduled services.
There has been a substantial increase in funding allocated for Local Link services since 2016, going from €12.2 million in 2016 to €28.206m in 2021. The additional funding since 2016 has enabled the introduction of 85 new Rural Regular Service routes, as well as improvements to DRT services and the piloting of evening/night-time services in certain rural areas which have now been mainstreamed. The new Rural Regular Services operate at least five times per day over a 5,6,7 days per week schedule. They are specifically designed to ensure connectivity with other public transport services and better linkage of services between and within towns and villages.
Bus Éireann operates a substantial PSO business under contract with the NTA, providing subvented bus services outside Dublin, and in regional and rural locations throughout the country. Bus Éireann also has a separate, commercially-run business, "Expressway", which operates a number of inter-regional bus routes in competition with other, private, commercial operators in the licensed bus market.
From a Local Link perspective, the 176 service connects Monaghan Town with Cavan town via the villages of Threemilehouse, Newbliss, Clones town, Scotshouse and Ballyhaise. Routes M1 & M2 provide six days per week transport to Monaghan town connecting the villages of Knockatallon, Tydavnet, Scotstown and Ballinode with Monaghan, and Castleblayney, Doohamlet, Ballybay and Ardaghy to Monaghan. Onward travel is facilitated by these services from Monaghan town bus station to the following destinations: Carrickmacross, Dundalk, Drogheda, Dublin, Belfast, Armagh, Derry, Cootehill, Athlone, Galway, Enniskillen and Letterkenny. There were no changes introduced since July 2021.
In addition to the above mentioned Regular Rural Services a number of Demand Responsive Services operate in the area.
In terms of new public transport services, including in County Monaghan, the NTA is developing its Connecting Ireland Rural Mobility Plan to improve mobility in rural areas by providing better connections between villages and towns and by linking these areas with an enhanced regional network connecting cities and regional centres nationwide.
The Connecting Ireland plan is a major national public transport initiative developed by the NTA with the aim of increasing public transport connectivity, particularly for people living outside the major cities and towns. It will significantly increase both the number of routes and the frequency of existing services right across the country.
The Deputy will be pleased to learn that Connecting Ireland proposes to specifically expand the public transport network in rural areas and to increase service levels. Under Connecting Ireland, the NTA is proposing an overall increase of approximately 25% in rural bus services as part of the five year Connecting Ireland plan. Hundreds of rural villages and areas will for the first time be served by a viable public transport link.
Minister Ryan joined the NTA to launch its Connecting Ireland consultation on Friday 29 October 2021. I would urge everyone to review the NTA's proposals for their areas, including County Monaghan, and give their feedback to the NTA to guide the implementation of Connecting Ireland.