Leo Varadkar was in town to celebrate ten years of the West and South Offaly Rural Transport Programme this week.
The West and South Offaly Rural Transport Programme has in its ten years of existence created social networks for those living in isolation, created opportunities for people in Offaly to access third level education and contributed to generating local revenue.
That’s according to Transport Minister Leo Varadkar, who visited Teach Lea Community Centre in Boora yesterday (Monday) to mark the rural transport programme’s tenth anniversary.
“You should be rightfully proud in celebrating what you have achieved in the last ten years in identifying the transport needs and delivering the services to be provided locally to your own communities,” Minister Varadkar said at the event.
“The government and I regard the Rural Transport Programme as a critical component of public transport services,” he added, “and it is vital for the development of a fully inclusive society from both a social and economic perspective.”
Countrywide the rural transport initiative has grown from offering 40,000 services in 2003 to more than 217,000 in 2012. Passenger journeys in the same period increased from 171,000 to 1.73m in the same period, while the West and South Offaly Rural Transport Programme has delivered almost 200,000 journeys since its inception.
“In the case of your own group over the last ten years, you have created social networks for people living in isolation and empowered people to become involved in local communities,” Minister Varadkar said.
“In that time period you have also expanded and diversified the type of passengers carried under the programme and consequently created opportunities for people in Offaly to access third level education.
"Putting figures on your achievements, almost 200,000 flexible quality transport journeys have been delivered since you started on your journey with this programme. By sustaining and developing private transport enterprises and employment in the county and developing standards in areas of customer service, and health and safety, levels of achievement have been increased across the board. You have also contributed to generating much needed local revenue.”
Minister Varadkar added that the Offaly programme, by developing integrated agency networks and linkages with other transport providers, is positioned well for the restructuring of the Rural Transport Programme.
The restructuring will see 18 transport co-ordination units take the place of the existing 35 rural transport groups.