Long wait for new bus routes likely
New bus routes planned for Cavan may not start running until next year.
Announced last October, the Connecting Ireland plan from the National Transport Authority (NTA) aimed to increase bus services and better allocate resources to parts of the country not well served.
Under it, Cavan was to see a dramatic increase in services, with some parts of the county, which are without bus transport, seeing new routes.
It’s intended new routes and changes to existing routes will be rolled out up to 2026 but it was hoped Cavan could see early implementation given the county’s lack of existing public transport infrastructure.
However, the Phase 1 Implementation Plan issued by the NTA late last month shows few of the planned routes for Cavan are expected to be up and running this year.
Just one route, the 176 running from Cavan to Monaghan, has begun service. That route, linking the two towns via Ballyhaise, Clones, Newbliss, Threemilehouse and other villages, was an existing service with slight changes. Those changes came into effect on April 11 last, according to the NTA.
Just one of the five other routes to become operational this year is a new route, with the others being existing services earmarked for slight changes or realignments.
Cavan to Carrick
The 166A, which will link Cavan Town and Carrickmacross, is currently at planning and design stage according to the report. The NTA says that route is expected to be in operation in the last quarter of this year. Buses on that route are expected to provide a minimum service frequency of three return trips a day, via Cootehill and Shercock.
A minimum service frequency of two hours is expected when the route 25 service becomes operational in quarter three. Originally planned to link Athlone and Belfast, that route will now terminate in Cavan, according to the implementation plan.
Cavan to Athlone
It will run from Athlone to Longford, Edgeworthstown and Cavan, replacing or realigning a number of existing bus services along the route. It forms one of four “Regional Corridor Proposals” put forward by the NTA last October.
The existing routes 572 and 929 are to be integrated into a new route, known as 572 in quarter three of this year. The NTA says this will provide a minimum of four daily services on weekdays between Cavan and Sligo, through local villages like Killeshandra, Ballinamore and Drumshanbo. That route is also at the planning and design stage.
Cavan to Dundalk
The second of the “Regional Corridor Proposals” expected to begin operation locally this year is Route 30, linking Cavan and Dundalk. This route is currently served by the 166 service but the NTA says it hopes to increase frequency. Buses will run from Cavan to Bailieborough, Kingscourt, Carrickmacross and on to Dundalk. It’s also expected to begin in the last three months of the year.
The 187 service, linking Kells and Cavan town is also at planning and design stage. It will run a minimum of four return trips on weekdays, with three at weekends. That service will stop in Virginia, Ballyjamesduff, Kilnaleck, Oldcastle and other areas, with the existing service extended to Cavan town.
Another 14 routes are planned for Cavan as part of the Connecting Ireland plan but no information on their implementation has been made available.
The plan came in for criticism at the last meeting of Cavan County Council before the summer break. Elected members were critical of the lack of information on the proposed services and concerned some would be rendered “useless” due to poor timetabling.
Cllr Aiden Fitzpatrick (FF) lamented the lack of stops on the proposed route 108 linking Kells and Cootehill. The section between the two Cavan towns in particular was left wanting.
Padraic Smyth, manager of Local Link Cavan Monaghan, said this had been raised with the NTA.
“There is a long stretch between Cootehill and Bailieborough without a stop. This has been raised with the planners. We’re still in the early stages but I hope they’ll look at it in the not too distant future.”
He encouraged councillors to contact the NTA themselves with concerns about the proposed routes, noting “every representation is worthwhile”.
‘Worst serviced town’
Aontú’s Sarah O’Reilly noted the lack of planned services for Bailieborough, describing it as “the worst serviced town” in the county.
She said while she was “delighted” to hear of progress with Route 30 through the town, she was led to believe its implementation was “imminent” over a year ago.
“Ballyjamesduff has better links. Other towns have five or six [buses] a day but Bailieborough only has two”.
She criticised a recently published report from the NTA following a round of public consultations on the plans, describing it as “misleading”.
“One of those services is one bus that runs two days a week. It’s very misleading in the report. I’m concerned.”
Padraic Smyth, who was addressing the council on the Local Link services in the region, said those questions should be raised with the NTA itself.
He did however note Ballyjamesduff currently does not have a “proper level of service” after a question from Cllr Madeleine Argue (FG).
“The Bus Éireann service from Oldcastle runs to Ballyjamesduff. It’s not a proper level of service. The Saturday service from Ballyjamesduff is quite well used. It’s been raised with the NTA for years. It needs to be a minimum of four times a day to be useful.”
The Public Consultation Report, referenced by Cllr O’Reilly, shows Cavan had some of the best engagement with the consultations held across the country.
A total of 53 submissions made to the NTA on the plans referenced Cavan, compared with six for Monaghan and just three for Longford.
Among the issues raised were a lack of services or a need for more frequent services.
‘Ballyjamesduff was noted as needing more frequent bus services as well as regular TFI Local Link service for Shercock, Bailieborough, Killinkere Cross, Virginia and Mullagh,’ the report reads.
A lack of evening and night time services from Cavan Town was also raised as an issue: “In Cavan town it was highlighted that there are no services to Shercock, Kingscourt or Bailieborough on weekends or evenings.”
Bailieborough, as highlighted by Cllr O’Reilly, is also referenced. “It was noted that in comparison to neighbouring towns of Cootehill, Shercock and Kingscourt, which have four direct daily buses between 5.30am and 6.30pm, Bailieborough has two routes servicing the people of the town.”