Minister for Transport Leo Varadkar
The Minister for Transport has refused to intervene in the case of Bus Éireann's recent contentious decision to axe services to Swanlinbar, Bawnboy and Ballyconnell on its primary Dublin to Donegal route. In a correspondence with a local politician, Minister Leo Varadkar stated it is "an operational matter", insisting it doesn't concern him.
There has been widespread anger and disbelief amongst across the west Cavan communities at news that from October 14, Bus Éireann will not longer serve the areas as part of Route 30.
In its place, Bus Éireann suggests that within a fortnight local bus customers use alternative once-weekly services, the 464 between Swanlinbar to Enniskillen on Thursdays or the 465 Ballyconnell to Cavan on a Tuesday. Bawnboy has being left without any alternative.
A group of 20 or more people, concerned by the route cut gathered at the bus stop in Ballyconnell last Sunday afternoon, armed with a banner with the slogan "don't stop our bus". Many of the people The Anglo-Celt spoke with were fearful at how the cut will affect them in their daily lives, in attending hospital appointments in Cavan or Dublin, in getting to work and even going to college.
Bus Éireann have said "our Expressway services are commercial services that receive no State funding and, as such, must be commercially viable. The numbers using the service do not justify its retention as a commercial service".
Now the Minister has spoke out on the matter, with a spokesperson from his office stating, "this is an operational matter in which the Minster had no role" in the decision to cut-back the route.
West Cavan Fianna Fáil Councillor, John Paul Feeley condemned the Minister for his stance, saying it effectively amounted to "a total cop-out".
"The Minister for Transport is responsible and accountable to Dáil Éireann for CIÉ and Bus Éireann. He is the shareholder on behalf of the Irish people and surely he has an obligation to insist that the public interest is taken into account and that Bus Éireann fulfils its duties to provide a proper and sustainable service to the people of West Cavan", Cllr Feeley said.
He added that across rural Ireland, Bus Éireann have been found to be curtailing its services, cancelling routes and, as Cllr Feeley said, "leaving communities without public transport."
"The failure of Minister Varadkar to intervene is yet another example of this Governments lack of commitment to rural Ireland, a government committed to closing rural school and Garda station and withdrawing funding to County Councils causing an end to road maintenance and housing grants for the old and disabled."