WEST Cork is to get new bus routes this year, as part of the government’s ‘Connecting Ireland’ strategy, while some existing routes will be improved.
One of the new routes is Skibbereen to Killarney which, it is hoped, could provide a welcome tourism boost to both towns. The routes include Dursey Sound to Kilcrohane (Route 232); Skibbereen to Killarney, (Route 270) Macroom to Cork, Cork to Bandon and Baltimore to Union Hall.
Cork South West Fianna Fail TD Christopher O’Sullivan has commended the addition of several new West Cork routes. ‘In particular the new route from Skibbereen to Killarney was very exciting from a tourism perspective, as it could potentially bring many of the tourists who visit Kerry into West Cork and allow them to explore the region.’
He added that there is also a new route from Dursey to Kilcrohane – which will go through Bantry – and another from Union Hall to Baltimore. There will also be more frequent buses from Bandon to Cork. The Department of Transport says the Dursey route will be operational by the end of March, and the Skibbereen Killarney route by the end of June.
The Macroom to Cork route is currently at the ‘planning and design’ stage and is due to be in service by the end of September, with the Cork to Bandon route operating by the end of the year, with a similar timescale for the Baltimore to Union Hall bus.
Deputy O’Sullivan said the big issue in rural Ireland is the lack of connectivity and the lack of frequent buses. ‘This is certainly a step in the right direction, and I hope to see further routes added in the coming years,’ he told The Southern Star.
Also welcoming the news to improve what she described as our ‘sparse rural bus network’, Deputy Holly Cairns said there is no excuse for our towns and villages not to be well serviced by frequent routes. However, she said the new route from Baltimore to Union Hall, replacing an existing variant of route 237, is still at the planning and design phases, and will not be operational until at least the winter.
‘There is concern about the Dursey to Kilcrohane route,’ she added, ‘which includes Castletownbere, Glengarriff, Bantry, and Durrus, as it is a local, rather than a regional, route. There was an opportunity with this plan to introduce a new regional route with Castletownbere as a hub for the Beara peninsula, connecting it to both south Kerry and the rest of West Cork. I have continually asked the Minister for Transport to look into this matter, but he has just referred me to the National Transport Authority.’
She said the route is the same one which will be used by young people unable to get to day services and education in Bantry from Beara. ‘I have encouraged the National Transport Authority to liaise with them and their families to ensure the timetable suits their needs,’ she added.
Deputy Cairns also said that there was nothing in the announcement about bus stops, and that a number of sheltered bus stops are needed.
‘The Killarney Skibbereen bus, going via Kenmare, Glengarriff, Bantry and other places en route, is obviously a very welcome connection that can serve tourists and locals alike. However, it is important for it to be in place for the summer season,’ she said.
Deputy Michael Collins said that while the new routes were welcome, West Cork remains disconnected.
‘As a voluntary member of Local Link Cork, we have been working on a new bus route from Ardgroom to Kilcrohane daily, which should be up and running in the next few months. I also welcome the announcement of a new service from Baltimore to Union Hall later this year, but this service needs to start immediately as it is long overdue.’
He said it leaves areas like Dunmanway to Clonakility, via Ballygurteen and Drinagh, along with areas like Kinsale, Ballinhassig, Belgooly, Goleen, Schull and Ballydehob with little or no public transport service.