The National Transport Authority is proposing an overall increase of approximately 25% in rural bus services as part of the five-year Connecting Ireland plan that was published for public consultation today.

The 'Connecting Ireland' plan is a major national public transport initiative developed by the NTA with the aim of increasing public transport connectivity, particularly for people living outside major cities and towns.

Two in every five villages around the country are not currently connected to a nearby big town.

The NTA hopes the initiative will provide 70% of people living outside cities with access to public transport that will operate return trips at least three times a day between the hours of 9am to 5.30pm.

It is also proposing more than 60 new connections to regional cities from surrounding areas and improved mobility options for those in remote areas.

Micheál Ó Ceallacháin, who provides and delivers Meals on Wheels in the rural Muskerry region of Co Cork, said the expansion and enhancement of local bus services in the area would greatly benefit his clients.

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"There's people with bus passes and it's no good to them because they can't use them. They can't link in to the service from Cork to Killarney - which services Macroom and Ballincollig and the regional hospital in Cork," he said.

"They've no way of getting there other than getting a lift to the bus and having a lift to go home after," he added.

Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan said there is an opportunity for people to work and live in rural areas.

"Why should just the cities get a Bus Connects service? This plan is connecting rural Ireland, a Bus Connects for rural Ireland. Put that together with the broadband that's a transformative change," Minister Ryan said.

NTA chief executive Anne Graham said the plan is about giving people more options to not use their car.

"That's going to have an impact in terms of our carbon emissions reductions, so it's about giving people more options," Ms Graham said.

However, Louise Lennon from Irish Rural Link said the plan does not go far enough

"We would be concerned. €5.6 million has been allocated in the Budget so we don't think that will go far enough for what is needed. But we welcome it, it's a first step," Ms Lennon said.

Members of the public are invited to leave feedback on the National Transport Authority's website.