Increasing pressure due to reduced funding from government has forced Fermanagh Community Transport Ltd into a number of changes to their bus service this week which will affect many users in rural areas of the county who have no other means of transport.

The company provides group transport services to community, church, youth and sports groups who operate throughout the Fermanagh area.

On its website the company announced an end to their 5 Bus Service along with changes to the Dial a Lift operating times and booking service. February 15 will see an end to the 5 Bus Service.

Any members of the service are advised to make alternative arrangements for after school travel beyond February 15.

The decision has been driven by the increasing pressures on our service in terms of reduced funding from Government.

And in order to ensure they meet EU Drivers Working Hours Regulations, Fermanagh Community Transport Ltd will be reducing its Dial a Lift operating times.

Dial a Lift service was established in January 2000 and is funded by the Department for Regional Development through the Rural Transport Fund. Dial a Lift has over 800 members with many of these members using the service a number of times each week.

This is a vital door-to-door service for those who live in rural areas and who are rurally or socially isolated due to lack of transport.

Pick-up of members will commence from 8am at the earliest on any morning with the latest drop-off being at 5.15pm. Pick-up or drop-off to members outside of these hours from Monday through to Friday will not be available. This change will come into effect from Monday, February 18.

Along with the changes to the operating times, there will also be a change to the way members book their Dial a Lift service in order to improve scheduling and enable more members to travel the company will be implementing a new three day advance booking policy for requested journeys.

Independent Councillor Bernice Swift has said the pressures in central government should not affect such a vital rural service.

“We cannot accept that so-called pressures from a central government Department means that our necessary rural services have to be stopped and so I have already raised this as a priority matter for our Council to ensure the Department feels our pressure to most definitely sustain this fundamental and required service.”

“I know many individuals who use the extensive Rural Transport service who have enjoyed much reduced social exclusion and isolation by being able to travel to various outings and indeed health appointments of which they otherwise would not have been able to attend due to the lack of a proper transport infrastructure and the actual means or ability to drive.

“This issue has vexed me, especially when I think of all the people it will negatively impact right across my very rural constituency, it is simply not good enough and the Department must do what our taxes and regional rates pay them to do.

“The rural transport service addressed many complex issues in many untold ways particularly for the marginalised in our area, if the Department are genuine about addressing rural needs they need to ensure they secure the significant investment to continue the positive impacts these services provide for a better quality of life,” said Councillor Swift, in a statement to The Impartial Reporter yesterday (Wednesday).