New Year, New Future for Rural Transport
Regional Development Minister, Conor Murphy outlined the future of the Rural Transport fund at an event with Rural Community Transport providers in Armagh on Thursday 19th December 2007.
The Rural Transport Fund was introduced into Northern Ireland in 1998 and provides revenue support for 19 Rural Community Transport Partnerships (RCTPs) and to Translink to provide rural public transport services in rural areas.
The Minister outlined the future priorities of the Rural Transport Fund. Services will continue to reduce social exclusion by improving/providing transport opportunities for people with reduced mobility in rural areas. Greater emphasis will be made on providing accessible individual transport in rural areas.
During the next twelve months three pilot door to door schemes will be run in geographically specific areas in Northern Ireland. The aim of the pilots will be to identify how best individual transport services in rural areas can be delivered to meet the needs of the rural communities.
The Rural Transport Fund will also look towards providing a new scheme where larger groups can avail of RTF transport services, and towards introducing a standardized membership and pricing structure..
Bryan Myles of the Community Transport Association (CTA) welcomed the new funding aim “Earlier this year, the CTA was invited by the Department to carry out a focussed consultation with the RCTPs on the future direction of the RTF. In the spring, we organised a series of meetings with stakeholders across the North of Ireland
By June, at the conclusion of the consultation exercise community organisations collectively helped us to set out our position for the development of the RTF policy in helping to achieve a reduction of social exclusion in rural areas.
CTA are pleased that many of the suggestions and local expertise has been used to help shape the new RTF policy”.
Minister Conor Murphy said “I firstly want to record my thanks and appreciation to the Board of Directors and staff of all the 19 Rural Community Transport Partnerships who have over the last number of years provided transport service for people, with reduced mobility and who live in rural areas and find themselves socially isolated. The changes and the way forward I have announced today will ensure the sustainability of the Rural Transport Fund which provides support to the Partnerships and will ensure that even more rural dwellers can avail of transport services”.
Keith Halstead of CTA commented “To help meet the challenges involved in implementing the RTF policy we recommended that the change be managed in a positive manner through collaboration with CTA, so that as a representative body, we could reflect community interests and concerns in the outworking of the new policy.
We are therefore grateful to the Department for agreeing to support a joint project with the CTA entitled “Managing Positive Change” which will help to steer the RTF programme during the period of transition. We have since appointed Oonagh McCallan, on secondment from Rural Link, to manage this joint project”.
For further details about Rural Community Transport in your area please call 0845 650 1190 (from a landline) where you will be connected to you local transport provider. Alternatively you can contact CTA 028 9040 3535 or www.communitytransport-ni.com