The iRoUTE (Integrated Rural Urban Transport Evolution) Conference of the 27th and 28th of June 2017 was organised to explore the potential of developing a sustainable ‘joined-up’ transport system for rural Ireland. The iRoUTE partners are- Kilkenny LEADER Partnership, Kilkenny County Council, Ring a Link and Carlow Kilkenny Energy Agency. All operate in a wide region with a common initial focus in County Kilkenny.
In recent times, there has been a heightened focus on the Ireland that lives and works beyond the major cities and towns. It is widely accepted that rural towns, villages- indeed the entire rural community’s socio-economic structure is suffering severe strain. Services- of all sorts- education & training, health-care, employment, etc. and the opportunity to access them have been identified as the key dearth and cause of the decline of rural communities. Some access service deficits such as broadband provision have become universally recognised as requiring investment by the state; leading to the ambitious National Broadband Plan.
However while welcome, the physical access to services can never be replaced by a virtual methods. Employment, tourism, socialising, healthcare and education/ training all still require transport options. But far too often these are scant or non-existent in many rural areas. The iRoUTE partners all have an interest in the development of a sustainable transport system in financial, environmental and social senses. Their experiences and researches have them to the conclusion that the pathway to the goal is by cooperation among the varied users, providers and destinations of transport. This in turn means that the optimum transport service for both rural and urban areas must be integrated to avoid waste and maximise coverage.
Integration is a goal that is easier to explain and get agreement for in principle than it is to practically achieve. However rural communities other parts of the world have come closer to realising the objectives. The iRoUTE conference intends to open the eyes of Irish stakeholders to the potential of realising a successful integrated public transport system, by bringing to Kilkenny Castle examples from similar small EU states where they have managed to move closer to that ideal.
The stakeholders include, transport providers, of course- but also community representatives, healthcare service operators, education & training centres, tourism operators, and many more. In fact the organisers welcome anyone with an open mind on finding a solution to Ireland’s transport conundrum. The Conference’s innovative workshop sessions will also allow two-way communication between all the participants. At the close of the event on the 28th of June, the iRoUTE stakeholders hope that there will be a common vision on the required evolution of thought and behaviour to design an integrated public transport system not just for the Kilkenny region- but for rural Ireland as a whole: Integrated Rural Urban Transport Evolution.
Following the conclusion of the conference, the iRoUTE partners aspire to piloting an integrated transport initiative in the wider Kilkenny region- with the design specification of being replicated in all of rural Ireland. Please participate and enjoy fully your time at the iRoUTE Conference over the 27th and 28th of June- but remember, the journey to a ‘fit for purpose’ integrated transport system just starts here; stay with us as we drive towards the final destination…