Cllr. Evelyn Parsons, Cllr Tim Broderick, and Denis Naughten TD have condemned the decision to withdraw the Bus Éireann service between Galway, Ballinasloe & Athlone which has left those with a free travel pass without any service.
The local representatives went on to point out the lack of any information whatsoever at the local bus stops informing people that the service has been withdrawn has caused utter confusion and as a result people have already missed vital hospital appointments.
Cllr Parsons said that “we have mixed messages and double speak on public services at a time when the Government are asking people to take cars off the road and to lower emissions. How can we have rural regeneration when actions such as this are undermining these very policies?”
She went on to say “earlier this year we had the early morning bus from Galway to Ballinasloe reinstated as an essential service to many during the pandemic including nursing and health care staff providing frontline services and patients attending appointments in Portiuncula Hospital. Now this vital service does not seem to matter”
Cllr. Tim Broderick said that “the lack of a bus connection from local villages to Ballinasloe and particularly to Portiuncula Hospital leaves older people in particular reliant on neighbours to get them to appointments and this is not acceptable at a time when we should be increasing local health services not closing them off to sections of our community”
Denis Naughten has received confirmation from Aircoach, the new service provider between Galway, Ballinasloe, Athlone, and Dublin that it does not accept the free travel passes or companion passes issued by the Department of Social Protection.
He went on to say “as someone who uses the 20/20X service, I believe this decision totally undermines the Government policy on climate change which is focused on encouraging people to move from cars to public transport. How can we get people to move when those with a right to free transport can’t actually avail of it?”
Padraig Lyons, a local pensioner pointed out that “those who can least afford to use public transport and are yet most reliant upon such a service, are effectively being left on the side of the road by this decision. The basic human rights of local people are being undermined by the decision to cease this service”
On foot of the decision by Bus Éireann, Cllrs. Broderick, Parsons, and Deputy Naughten have made direct contact with the National Transport Authority seeking funding not just for the reinstatement of existing bus services but the expansion of services into Portiuncula Hospital, Ballinasloe.