New evening and night-time bus services will operate in dozens of rural areas from the end of next month.

The move, announced by Minister for Transport Shane Ross, is aimed at tackling social isolation.

The new services are being rolled out on a trial basis.

The scheme adds 188 extra trips a week to the country's rural transport network.

The 50 new services include 20 extensions to existing regular public transport routes in rural areas.

People can also pre-book a place on one of 30 new flexible routes to be brought to and from a social event, such as a game of bingo or bridge or to the pub.

Most services will run from 6pm to 11pm, typically on Friday and Saturday evenings.

19 counties are included in the trial, among them Kerry, Cork, Donegal, Kildare, Wicklow, Louth, Waterford, Cavan, Monaghan, Offaly and Laois.

The cost to the State of funding the new services for the six-month trial period is €450,000.

The announcement comes as stricter drink-driving laws are set to be voted through the Dáil soon.

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Mr Ross told RTÉ's Morning Ireland that no application was turned down and counties without the services did not make any applications.

He said he was surprised that some counties did not apply for the service.

The minister added that he expected those counties to come forward and said the application process would be re-opened if areas that have not applied for a route would like to apply.

Mr Ross said the service would be examined, route by route, in December.

He also said efforts to obstruct the drink-driving bill were irresponsible and an obstruction of the democratic will of the Dáil.

However, Independent TD Michael Healy Rae has said he does not welcome the extension of the rural link service because it is just a "sop" by the Government to "take the bad look off" drink-driving legislation.

Mr Healy Rae, who is opposing that bill, said Mr Ross is trying to "avert attention from the legislation at this crucial time", adding that it appears as though the minister is trying to do something for rural Ireland, when he is not.

He added that it was inaccurate to suggest he was trying to delay the new bill.