By Suzanne Pender
CARLOW town’s new bus service will operate 18 hours a day with the fare set at €1.10 for adults and 55 cents for children/young adults for any journey on the route.
Details of the much-anticipated bus service were outlined at a recent meeting of Carlow Municipal District by representatives from the National Transport Authority (NTA) and Bus Éireann.
The town bus service is expected to be operational by mid-July of this year, operating two routes: CW1, which runs from MSD, Dublin Road to Tyndall College, Kilkenny Road; and CW2 running from Wexford Road Business Park to Barrow Valley Retail Park, Graiguecullen.
Both routes interchange at a number of locations through the town, including Sandhills and Carlow Town Park, with a bus departing from both terminals every half hour.
The bus service will operate 18 hours a day, seven days a week, starting before 6am and running until midnight at a cost of €1.10 for adults and 55 cents for children, students and young adults under 24, irrespective of the distance to be travelled. Free travel cards will also be accepted, while the aspiration is that no Carlow town resident will be any further than 450 metres from a bus stop.
John Nott of NTA outlined the success of the bus service in other towns, with a growth in passenger numbers experienced and a renewed vibrancy in town centres. “We are very confident this will work in Carlow,” he assured members.
Mr Nott revealed that leap cards will be operated on the town bus service, but cash will also be accepted. He said that infrastructure, including the completion of bus stops, is currently underway, with the service expected to be fully operationally by the middle or end of July.
Eric O’Callaghan, representing Bus Éireann, stated that in June agents will be in Carlow outlining the service to the public, introducing people to how the service works and offering 1,500 leap cards with €5 free credit. A dedicated web page will also be launched highlighting the various stops on both routes and service ambassadors on site demonstrating to the Carlow public how the service operates.
Councillors were extremely positive about the new service, welcoming, in particular, the very reasonable fares and the operational hours.
Mayor of Carlow cllr Fintan Phelan described the introduction of the bus service as “extremely welcome”. He asked if there would be an app or timetable available, adding that reliability is key to the success of the service.
Cllr Fergal Browne asked if there was scope to expand the service, while cllr Tom O’Neill said there was one word to describe the introduction of the bus service: “Alleluia”.
Cllr John Cassin asked about the bus service travelling further into housing estates, pointing out the case of the Tullow Road, where it takes “15 minutes to walk from The Laurels to the top of the road”.
“Stops in estates would make an awful difference,” he added.
Cllr Ken Murnane described it as “very positive”, but added that he, too, had concerns about the service going far enough into housing estates like the Tullow Road and also the service provided to residents in Co Laois, in particular the many estates in Graiguecullen.
Cllr Andrea Dalton asked if the fleet was electric, as previously mooted, and if recruitment of drivers was an issue. Cllr Adrienne Wallace agreed it was important that there were additional stops at the Tullow Road.
Mr Nott said the timetable would be a “predictable, memorable service pattern” with a trial expected to take place in June and an opportunity to test the route. He said there would be scope to expand the service with regular monitoring of how it is working, its activity and passenger numbers.
“We will be watching the service closely in an ongoing active way,” he stated.
Mr Nott accepted there is also a “trade-off” in providing an efficient, direct service, yet also attempting to reach as many people as possible.
The council said that recruitment of drivers “is a challenge”, with 18 positions available; however, a number of existing drivers will apply to move to the Carlow service. The fleet will not be electric, as first hoped.
Route of CW1: MSD, south to Pollerton, Mountain View, Pollerton Road, Sandhills, O’Brien Road, Dublin Road (Green Lane), town centre, Carlow Train Station, Carlow Town Pak, Hanover Road (Aldi), Kilkenny road (SETU), Tyndall College.
Route of CW2: Wexford Road Business Park, The Orchards, Friar’s Green, Gaelscoil, Idrone Park/Oakley Park, Presentation College, Sandhills, Pollerton Road, town centre, Kennedy Avenue, Maryborough Street, Duggan Avenue, Carlow Town Park, Sleaty Street, Graiguecullen GAA and Barrow Valley Retail Park.