An overall budget of €9.133 million has been allocated by my Department to the Rural Transport Programme (RTP) for 2013, representing a small decrease on the 2012 allocation of €9.77 million, at a very difficult time financially. €105,643 of the 2013 RTP budget has been allocated to Bealach Páirtnnéireacht Iompar Áiriúil Chonamara Teo from January to June 2013, with a further proposed allocation of €105,643 from July to December 2013. €94,404 of the 2013 RTP budget has been allocated to Galway Rural Development Co from January to June 2013, with a further proposed allocation of €94,404 from July to December 2013. €94,404 of the 2013 RTP budget has been allocated to South East Galway Integrated Rural Development Limited from January to June 2013, with a further proposed allocation of €94,404 from July to December 2013. This represents a total 2013 allocation of RTP funding of €588,902 for the provision of RTP services in the County Galway area.
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.
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 1st 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.
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 Transport Coordination Units be established. I would emphasise that no decision has been taken regarding the County Galway area or any other part of the country, 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.