Moderate uptake of evening rural bus service
3rd September 2018
There has been a moderate uptake of the recently introduced evening rural bus service, a service which takes in a large number of rural areas in south Offaly including Kinnitty, Longford, Roscomroe, Clareen, Lackaroe, Cadamstown, Ballyboy and Rath.
The new service was introduced to try and combat rural seclusion and the problem of loneliness, particularly for isolated elderly people living on their own. The service is not being used just by those wishing to visit pubs but also those who want to visit their relatives and friends. It's a very user friendly service and the relationship between the driver and the users is an important one.
Cllr John Clendennen told the Tribune that the new system has been moderately successful so far, and he urged people to please utilise the scheme. “The scheme will be reviewed in a few months time, in January, and it will be seen then if there has been enough support for it. If the scheme does prove reasonably popular with the public then it will be maintained. It's a sort of use it or lose it thing.”
The service is state-subsidised costing users €5 return, and €3 single. It operates Friday, Saturday and Sunday evenings and is a door to door pre-booked service. Seats must be booked before 7pm on the day of travel. 19 counties are benefiting from the new transport link, covering 50 routes. Those living in south Offaly who wish to use the bus should call (086) 1001063. There is also a Local Link Laois Offaly bus service which runs throughout the week (telephone 05786 92168). There are two bus runs inwards and two outwards each night for the weekend service, with the buses calling at people's homes if needs be. Cllr Clendennen added that no one has mentioned to him that having to pay €5 is a problem. He said he believes that the evening bus service will succeed. “I am confident about that, as I am confident that rural Ireland will recover from the difficult period it has gone through during recent years.”
Cllr Clendennen said he has been stressing to people that the weekend bus link is not a drink link, but rather a means of fighting isolation and loneliness. However, he said publicans are welcoming it because it will mean more customers.
Some feel that the pub trade has now bottomed out and it will recover a bit. They point to the fact that the membership of the Vintners Federation of Ireland has recently increased, which would seem to indicate that there is an element of growth again, probably because people now have more disposable income.
Almost a quarter of pubs in Offaly have closed since 2005 according to figures based on an analysis of the liquor licence figures published by Revenue and compiled by the Drinks Industry Group of Ireland (DIGI). In 2005, there were 164 pubs in Offaly but by 2017, that number had dropped by 23% to 127. The decline in the number of pubs has been seen in both urban and rural areas in the county. According to the DIGI, Offaly hospitality and drinks businesses enable 2,158 jobs and generate €26 million in revenue for the local tourism economy.
Cllr Clendennen, who also runs the very well known Giltrap pub in Kinnitty, pointed out that publicans want a reduction in their Sky fee (which costs over a thousand Euros a month), and a reduction in the alcohol excise tax, which is the second highest in the EU. DIGI believes that a reduction in alcohol excise tax “will encourage the growth of our drinks and hospitality sector, return money to Irish consumers and make Ireland more competitive internationally.”
“Pubs are a very important part of our social fabric,” commented Cllr Clendennen. “They act as beacons of light in our communities, providing an invaluable social setting.” He pointed out that while they provide an invaluable service they should also try to up their game. “Publicans have never had to compete with as many different competing factors as currently exist.” These factors include the health and fitness phenomenon and other forms of entertainment. Cllr Clendennen himself upped his game by introducing a glamping service in Kinnitty, something which has proven very successful during this year's tourism season, attracting more people to the village.