The National Transport Authority has announced that it will enable an enhances service on the Athlone-Westport route if Bus Éireann withdraws the service in April.
The announcement came in response to the decision by Bus Éireann to withdraw from the Athlone-Westport Route from April 16th. The National Transport Authority reviewed the route and determined that there is a Public Service Obligation to continue to provide services between Westport and Athlone. In addition, the Authority is considering amending the existing PSO service 440 to provide four services per day in
each direction, supplemented by two services per day in each direction on the Athlone-Westport route 440A to Ireland West Airport Knock. This would result in a doubling of the existing services. A more detailed assessment report will be published later with details of the route and timetables.
In a statement released earlier National Transport Authority Chief Executive Anne Graham said
“When the prospect of reductions to Expressway services was raised recently, NTA said that we would step in, establish the extent to which these changes gave rise to gaps in public service coverage, and bring forward proposals to fill those gaps.
“Today, we are doing precisely that, and we believe that what we are putting forward will retain connectivity and retain services along the effected corridors.
“Should it be the case that the solutions we are bringing forward require some amendment or adjustment, we will of course respond positively to any feedback that we receive.
“The Authority has assessed Bus Éireann’s proposed changes and has determined that overall, there are enough existing services to meet demand. The exception is the withdrawal of Route 21 from Westport to Athlone where we have determined that there is a public service obligation and where we are considering amending an existing PSO service to meet that obligation.
“There remains some time and space over the coming days, for the parties to resolve this dispute. I would urge them, for the sake of the travelling public to use this opportunity to get around the negotiating table and engage with each other, so that passengers are not unnecessarily inconvenienced.”
In welcoming the news Michael Fitzmaurice TD said
“Not alone have the NTA said that the route should stay open but that the service would be doubled to recognise the public service obligation involved. This is something that I and others have been working very hard on since the proposal to cut the route was announced”
“We sent e-mails to all TD’s in the West of Ireland to highlight the issue and while today’s news is positive it was a pity that we had to agitate so hard for the past two or three weeks before this decision was taken. It is good news for connectivity in the West of Ireland and thankfully the NTA has seen sense and the value of these routes which are a lifeline for people in rural areas and in the West of Ireland in particular” he concluded.