Researchers at Edge Hill University have been investigating issues of transport disadvantage in Ireland. Transport disadvantage refers to the lack of opportunity to access to varied, frequent and economically viable modes of transport. It is a phenomenon that contributes to social exclusion and lack of access to employment, education and public services. It can be disproportionally evident in rural and semi-rural areas where the associated burden of forced car ownership, a pragmatic response to a lack of accessible and timely alternatives, is an acknowledged feature of the broader phenomenon of transport disadvantage. The costs associated with owning a vehicle contribute to economic disadvantage experienced by certain sections of local populations living in these areas.
Research into transport disadvantage at a local level provides useful insights into contextual realities. This reflects wider trends for populations living beyond Dublin and its commuter hinterland who, by and large, are dependent on their cars to ensure access to goods, services and employment. For some, car ownership compounds issues of poverty and disadvantage more generally, whilst lack of access to transport can be detrimental to health and well-being of the wider community. In the medium to longer term the National Development Plan and the re-visioning of the Rural Transport Programme may contribute to positive transport developments.
Whilst the government needs to make good on pledges to rural communities it also needs to plan strategically to mitigate the environmental impacts associated with road building and car ownership. Concerns about climate change and the impetus provided by the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals may ultimately prompt a holistic and integrated approach to transport planning.
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