Closing rural bus stops in Ballydangan, along with others in Creagh in Ballinasloe and Kilrickle in east Galway, is another “slap in the face for rural Ireland” and will leave people isolated, according to an action group that has been set up to challenge the decision.
Bus Eireann decided to close a number of bus stops between Galway and Dublin effective from Sunday, July 29, prompting angry reaction among people living in the areas affected and those who use the bus stops.
The other stops affected are Oranmore and Derrydonnell in Galway; Horseleap in Offaly; Tyrellspass, Rochfortbridge and Miltownpass in Westmeath; Clonard in Meath and Moyvalley in Kildare.
According to Bus Eireann, its Expressway services are “wholly commercial and receive no state funding and therefore network reviews must take account of where customer demand is greatest”.
Last week, a protest took place in one of the proposed areas affected, Kilrickle, in east Galway amid concerned locals, some of who use that stop on a regular basis to get to Athlone, Galway or Dublin.
Following on from that, a meeting will take place at Moore Hall on Wednesday night, while further protests will take place. “Buses will be held up,” said a spokesman for the action group Save Our Bus Stops, Ken Campbell, who is a member of Social Demcrats party.
The group says the decision shouldn't be about financially viable routes, it should be about accessibility for all.
“Obviously there are points along the route that are financially viable and there are others that aren't. This cannot be about a money issue. This is an accessibility issue,” he said.
“There are elderly people who drive to the bus stop and get the bus to Athlone to get a few messages.”
“They are putting a line through the Midlands, rural Ireland,” said Mr Campbell, who is from the Ballinasloe town area.
“We need to make this collective and come together,” he said.
He said that one lady uses the Kilrickle stop to get to Athlone every day, while another young lady – who has special needs – uses the Tyrellspass stop as “her only independence”.
He said this is an issue that potentially affects everyone, not just those who use buses at the moment.
“Nobody ever knows what's coming around the corner,” he said. “Once it's [a bus stop] gone it won't be coming back,” he said.
He criticised the timing of the decision.
“They did it at a very suitable time for them.
The colleges are closed and the Dail is in recess,” he said.
Several young people from the Ballydangan, Creagh and Kilrickle areas use the bus stops to commute to colleges, he said, and this decision will make things very inconvenient for them and their families coming into the autumn season.
“We are calling on the people of all communities to come to the meeting this (Wednesday) evening in Moore and we will see what their thoughts are,” he told the Westmeath Independent.
The Save Our Stops public meeting will take place in Moore Hall at 8.30pm tonight (Wednesday). All are welcome to come and voice their opinions.