SPECULATION that dwindling funds and an 11th hour input by Laois County Council may have scuppered plans for a town bus service were strongly suggested by members at last week’s council meeting.
Acting senior engineer Ray Wickham outlined the NTA’s progress report on the Carlow town bus service, which indicated that it, in conjunction with Laois and Carlow county councils, will undertake assessments of the bus stop locations and route audit to identify potential constraints, followed by engineering designs. It’s expected that this will be completed by June.
Preparations are also being made on matters such as branding, cash/leap fares, real-time customer information, the Transport for Ireland app and so forth.
The service involved two routes across town from John Tyndall College to MSD, with additional stops in Graiguecullen a recent addition to plans.
Many councillors expressed disappointment with the delays, adding that when the bus service was first announced it was suggested the service would be up and running quickly and funding was available.
“It is disappointing; I thought we’d be up and running at this stage,” said cllr John Cassin.
“Now that Laois County Council is in on it, it looks like they are delaying Carlow County Council,” he argued.
Cllr Fintan Phelan asked “is there a scenario here this wouldn’t be funded, because my impression was that when this was first presented it was a done deal”? He also urged the NTA to speed up discussions with Irish Rail in relation to accessing land at the other side of the railway track, which would then be a stop for the bus service. Currently on the planned bus route, the nearest bus stop for the train station is at Carlow Fire Station.
Cllr Fergal Browne expressed concern about Irish Rail, pointing out that he had provided it with a contact number for a landowner in this area of the town, which would be an ideal location for additional car parking at the station.
“He hasn’t heard a word from Irish Rail, so that makes me sceptical. I don’t understand the delays and the way they’ve behaved about the pedestrian crossing is disgraceful,” he said.
“It’s outrageous in this day and age that a person in a wheelchair has to ring ahead to the station … it’s disgraceful,” cllr Browne stated.
Cllr Andrea Dalton welcomed the publication of the proposed routes but remarked that the plans were currently “very open-ended” and contrary to what councillors had been told initially about the imminent delivery of this project.
Cllr Phelan remarked that he hoped the project hadn’t fallen victim following the reduction in capital funding in light of the “explosion in costs of the national children’s hospital”.
“It’s great to see Fianna Fáil are putting more priority in a bus route than a children’s hospital … well done,” said an irritated cllr Brian O’Donoghue.