VITAL services to encourage the use of public transport in Clare are to receive a boost, members of the local authority have been told. The need to provide safe and accessible bus shelters was raised by Councillor Joe Cooney who called on the council to work with Bus Éireann on the matter.
A formal response to Councillor Cooney’s motion outlined how works are being carried out in conjunction with Bus Éireann, the National Transport Authority (NTA) and Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII) on 11 bus shelters at locations across the county. Six of these are new and will be installed in Nemarket-on-Fergus, Lisdoonvarna, Ennis, Westbury, Kilkee and Crusheen. Senior Engineer John Leahy outlined how the other five projects involve upgrades to existing shelters in Shannon.
In a remote contribution, Councillor Cooney told the meeting how, in some cases, people had to wait for busses “in atrocious conditions”. He also noted that school children had to wait for public transport at the side of the road in wet and windy weather. “These are not ideal conditions to be standing out in, especially in winter time,” he said.
The urgent need for more bus shelters “especially for young people and the elderly,” was outlined by Councillor PJ Ryan. “The only one caveat I would like to put in is that when these bus shelters are erected is that consultation takes place with the people who live close by,” he said. “I think that’s very, very important, because as we have heard before, anti-social behaviour goes on at some of these bus shelters and sometimes people living close to these bus shelters become very frightened and might be woken up at 3 or 4 o’clock in the morning with people drinking alcohol and shouting and roaring inside the bus shelter. I think is it seriously important that no bus shelter goes up anywhere without consultation with local residents and people who live nearby.”
Adding his support, Councillor Cillian Murphy noted a recent improvement in the bus services between Lahinch and Kilkee. “After many years, they’re connected and you can get a bus between Lahinch and Kilkee without having to go into Ennis,” he said. That has seen a huge amount of extra services coming through our small towns and villages in West Clare. Even Kilkee itself, which has a huge volume of public transport travelling through it has never had a bus shelter, it’s outside a derelict building now, at the minute. We’re working very hard with John Leahy and his team to get the bus shelter and I’d like to thank those lads for all their work.”
Councillor Murphy also raised the plight of a town-centre resident coping with an increased number of busses pulling up close to his home. “Maybe we could have a conversation with Bus Éireann about asking their drivers to switch off their engines at the stop, especially if they have to wait five or ten minutes,” he said.
Adding his support, Councillor Paul Murphy described the motion as “very relevant”. “Using my own village of Clarecastle as an example, we have a bus shelter heading south, that’d be heading in the direction of Shannon Airport,” he said. “We don’t have one heading up towards Ennis which is kind of crazy. It’s a very, very busy bus route. If John Leahy could keep that in mind, we’d appreciate it.”
Councillor Joe Killeen gave his full support to the motion saying all points had been well made.
Councillor Joe Garrihy supported the motion too. “Doolin, Lisdoonvarna, Ballyvaughan, Kilfenora, Corofin – there is no bus shelter,” he said. “We have high aspirations to bring back as many tourists to our county as possible, maybe we should start by looking at putting the infrastructure into our towns and villages from our own perspective, under our own control in communication with Bus Éireann.” The Fine Gael member also urged the authority to look at the promotion potential of bus shelters, he also thanked Mr Leahy and the Transportation Department for their planned works to provide shelters for Lisdoonvarna and Kilfenora.
Councillor Pat Hayes supported the motion saying it was “critically important”. “It’s not always as easy as it says on the tin,” he cautioned. “In particular areas, it can be quite difficult to get suitable sites. This is a long time in the pot in relation to Crusheen. It’s on a very important route from Gort to Ennis and we’re finding it quite difficult to get an agreed site and there are extra costs in terms of trying to purchase land brings its own difficulties.”
The Fianna Fáil member noted that some communities don’t have a bus service in the first place. “While there have been improvements on some of the regional and national routes, there are small towns that are under challenge to actually have a bus service,” he said. “I think projects like Clare Accessible Transport (CAT) still need to be on the agenda. That’s very important to our county.”
Councillor Gerry Flynn supported the motion describing it as “very important”.
He thanked the National Transport Authority (NTA) for providing funding to ensure a wheelchair accessible bus shelter in Shannon. He thanked the council executive and officials for their efforts to enhance bus shelters in Shannon, one of which was being upgraded following anti-social behaviour and damage. “Some funding has been provided by the Rural Directorate and some is from the General Municipal Allocation (GMA),” he noted.
Councillor Johnny Flynn gave his full support to the motion. He suggested that the council work with Local Link on the locations and to get their logo and timetables on the new shelters. “We need to integrate the Local Link with Bus Éireann and our own Cliffs of Moher service and the service that’s in North Clare around the Burren during the summer months,” he said. He also noted the importance of public transport for young people in accessing education and mental health supports.
Mayor of Clare, Councillor Mary Howard supported the motion noting there should be up to 20 bus shelters in Ennis that don’t currently exist. “Where they do,” she said, “they are exposed to the elements and the street lighting is bad and they’re very unsafe when you see students, this time of year, waiting on a bus in the winter in the dark.”
Councillor Pat McMahon also supported the motion describing it as an “excellent” one.
Replying to the motion, Mr Leahy outlined the ongoing and planned works. “If there are further locations, for example in East Clare, it’s a programme of work that we will keep our eye on and if we can improve towns and villages in any way, we should do that,” he said. “We’ve had a very good response from the National Transport Authority (NTA) so far, so let’s keep the momentum going.”
Councillor Cooney thanked his council and his colleagues for their support. “Hopefully, we’ll have more shelters around the county in the near future,” he said.