The National Transport Authority (NTA) has national responsibility for integrated local and rural transport. This includes, since 2012, management of the Rural Transport Programme which now operates under the ‘Local Link' brand.
The NTA has advised that all of the new evening services, announced last week, will use accessible vehicles.
I would also like to advise the Deputy that under Action 254 of "Realising our Rural Potential", the Action Plan for Rural Development, the Government is committed to ensuring that Rural Transport Programme vehicles are accessible, having to regard to all passenger needs.
The NTA recently published its Local Link Rural Transport Programme Strategic Plan 2018 to 2022. The key objective of Priority Area 5, Access for All, is to ensure the provision of fully accessible transport services on all services with a target to achieve at least 95% fully accessible trips by 2020 within the Rural Transport Programme. In this regard the retendering of all existing Local Link services is expected to be concluded shortly and the process has included a provision that all services must be fully wheelchair accessible within 2 years of contract award.
In relation to Action 102 of the National Disability Inclusion Strategy (NDIS), which is assigned to the NTA, the Authority is undertaking a tender competition for a potential new (single deck) medium distance bus/coach type vehicle which would allow wheelchair users to board with normal ramp access on Bus Éireann PSO services. The vehicles being sought are intended for routes up to 50km, being regional commuter routes and could replace the existing high floor type coach which requires an external wheelchair lift. It will not be possible to definitively confirm the availability of satisfactory vehicles until the tender process concludes.
The conclusions from this tender process will also inform a review by the NTA of the issue of wheelchair accessibility on commercial licensed bus/coach services. Currently there is no requirement on commercial bus operators to provide wheelchair accessible coaches. The NTA intends to publish proposals later this year which will set out minimum accessibility standards for commercial licensed services.