An innovative transport scheme which could serve rural communities across the country is now on the road.
The scheme is brainchild of Kerry Fine Gael Minister of State, Brendan Griffin and his parliamentary assistant, Tommy Griffin. The LIFT (Local Individually Flexible Transport) service, which began this month, is already proving to be extremely popular.
The experimental community transport scheme is underway for a trial period in Kerry where a volunteer driver, in a car donated to the community, is operating a not-for-profit transport service for all who need it, five nights a week.
Minister Griffin said if successful, the scheme which is operating in the Keel and Castlemaine areas could be rolled out nationwide.
“A volunteer driver is available by phone from 7pm to midnight to collect passengers for transport within the Keel and Castlemaine area and the service is available initially from Sunday to Thursday. Keel/Castlemaine LIFT does not operate on Friday and Saturday to avoid displacement of available services on those nights.
“This is a free, fully-insured volunteer operated not-for-profit service. Under 18’s and vulnerable adults seeking the service must be accompanied by an adult. There is no charge whatsoever. It is funded through community donations and contributions. This is the Meitheal system that we’re all proud of in rural Ireland – neighbours helping neighbours, communities working for themselves,” Minister Griffin said.
A pool of six volunteer drivers from Minister Griffin’s local political team are operating the pilot but a larger pool of over 20 volunteers from the locality have expressed their willingness to drive for the scheme long-term.
“The car – with full insurance, NCT and tax – a 05 Citroen C4 (5 door 5 seater) 1.6L diesel, was donated by Philip Griffin Motors and is perfect. Our total running cost for the year is projected to be less that €10,000.
“This means that securing a suitable vehicle wouldn’t be cost prohibitive in other communities. It could be possible that the model may be suitable in the future for organisations such as Local Link to adopt.
“We’ve had early discussions with the NTA and Local Link Kerry about this and I would be hopeful this can proceed to be taken up in communities across the country when alternative transport services are not always available,” Minister Griffin said.
“I will be compiling a detailed report for the Department of Transport and NTA at the end of February outlining the success of the scheme and will be considering all options to see how communities all over rural Ireland could easily implement this or similar schemes to serve the needs of the people.”