THE Rural Transport programme has proved a lifeline for people living in country areas since it began operating in August 2008.
It is run by the National Transport Authority and up until now has had a local management structure, Louth Leader Partnership.
But there are concerns that a restructuring on a more regional basis could seriously affect the whole system and if the local management structures are dismantled the whole thing could fall apart.
The transport providers in Louth are: John Halpenny Travel, Nicholas O’Rourke Coach Hire, Matthews Coach Hire, Minty’s Cabs, Brian Byrne, Eamon McDonnell.
Among the many areas covered in Mid-Louth are: covers Dunleer, Ardee, Stickillen, Richardstown, Dromin, Collon, Smarmore, Togher, Annagassan, Castlebellingham, Milestown, Dromiskin, Darver, Whiterath, Rathbawn, Duffy’s Cross, Readypenny, Allardstown, Stephenstown, Knockbridge, Louth village.
Patricia Fagan from Woodtown Castlebellingham said the service is essential to people living in country areas.
“It’s great,” she said. “We don’t have any bus service and this picks us up and leaves us right at the door.
Annie Dunne from Knockbridge said the bus operator John Halpenny is brilliant.
“He leaves your shopping right at your door. You couldn’t ask for more help.”
Gerry Kelly, also from Knockbridge said it is also a great social outlet because people get to know each other.
Mattie McGee from Louth said it gets him out and about.
“It’s fantastic. You get to know new people,” said Mattie.
Last year the service carried 13,500 passengers from rural areas throughout the county on a budget that is less than 200,000.
The service is for everyone, young and old, and those with free travel passes can also avail of it.
Mr Kevin Traynor, Rural Transport Manager for Louth, said the strength of the programme lies in knowing what these communities need.
“At a time when the social fabric of rural Ireland is gradually being eroded, this programme is vital.
“It provides a lifeline for these communities by providing affordable public transport where no other transport is available.
“People can collect their pensions, prescriptions, attend hospital or doctors’ surgery and do their weekly shopping.