A panel of world-leading sustainability experts today told a Newry audience that a radical shift in towards clean and green public transport would help preserve and improve rural services in Northern Ireland.
The team of international researchers and industry heavyweights gathered as part of a unique sustainable transport project that analysed the challenges facing six European regions and is co-funded through the INTERREG Atlantic Area Programme.
Collaborations from the 18-month Renewable Public Transport Enterprise (REPUTE), led locally by South West College, have resulted in a number of bold recommendations to help policymakers improve the efficiency and accessibility of public transport in rural areas.
Key findings argue for that investment should be directed towards the construction of new rural transport hubs and the development of cooperative models that allow communities and local partnerships to generate renewable energy for local transport. The project also makes the case for rural transport to consider using biofuels derived from waste biomass resources such as spent oils, food waste and farm residues.
Shirley Patterson, REPUTE Project Officer at South West College said:
“We know that it is not economically viable to serve diffuse rural communities with a regular public transport network and new models are needed to provide total transport solutions. This project is about mapping the best way for Northern Ireland and other partner regions to capitalise on imaginative schemes that have been successfully piloted elsewhere and that are proven to lower costs.
“Research from this project has found there are also considerable gains to be made in terms of affordability and accessibility from combining technologies and transport models that have sustainability at their core.”
The REPUTE project involved seven full partners and two associate partners in the Atlantic Area Region: the UK, Ireland, Scotland, France, Spain and Portugal.
Terry Waugh, Deputy Director, Action Renewables said:
“The context and motivation for a radical change toward sustainable transport is very clear. However, as REPUTE has shown, to do so effectively a number of elements must be in place including community engagement, localised energy initiatives and policies as well as cost-effective, energy-saving, technologies.
“Sustainable transport requires a shift towards fast and efficient public transport systems, but that does not mean it has to be costly. REUTE has identified a number of innovative funding mechanisms that integrate community energy schemes with transport solutions. These partnerships have great potential to increase efficiencies and community development in rural areas while also protecting local services.”
The REPUTE Tour took place in Canal Court Hotel, Newry on Thursday 11th June and included presentations from Terry Waugh, Action Renewables; Jerry Sanders, Skytran; Rajnish Ahuja, Clean Air Asia; Prof. Denise Morrey, Oxford Brookes University; Robert Brayshaw, Wrightbus; and Ciaran De Burca, Dept of Regional Development.