Old Bridge bus service proving popular with commuters

They say it's an ill wind that has no silver lining, and the old saying is proving true for the people of the Old Bridge area of Clonmel as they start using a new town bus service instead of walking over the bridges in to town.

They say it's an ill wind that has no silver lining, and the old saying is proving true for the people of the Old Bridge area of Clonmel as they start using a new town bus service instead of walking over the bridges in to town.

From a service that was viewed with some suspicion and a nuisance when it was first suggested, the short journey has quickly become a social affair for passengers.

The bus service was set up by the borough council and the OPW when it was announced that there would be no access over Suir Island from the Old Bridge to the town centre for the duration of phase three of the flood alleviation scheme - which is expected to take 18 months. Old Bridge residents who were used to a short walk or drive directly into the town centre were faced with a much longer detour - an especially dreaded walk for the area's older residents.

In recognition of the inconvenience for locals, the bus service was set up and has very quickly proved popular. Those using the service say it's giving them a chance to sit and chat with the neighbours they normally only have time for a passing hello with.

"I'm very happy with the service," Peggy Clancy from McDonagh Crescent told The Nationalist. "I go in the odd morning, I get the 10am bus and I can go down to mass if I want to, the time suits me."

Peggy said she goes in to town on the bus on Fridays to collect her pension, getting an earlier bus, then she can do a bit of shopping and get the 11.30am bus back home.

The service runs from a designated bus stop in Old Bridge, at the Emmigrant's Rest pub, to a designated stop on O'Connell Street, taking the detour route in to town via the Gashouse Bridge and back to the Old Bridge via the Presentation Convent.

Buses leave Old Bridge every half hour from 8am to 10am on weekdays, then again from 12.30pm to 6.30pm, with an extra bus leaving at 7pm on Thursday and Saturday evenings.

Buses back from town leave every half hour from 8.15am to 9.45am and then again at 11.30am, with the half hourly service running from 12.45pm to 6.45pm, with an extra bus at 7.15pm on Thursday and two extra buses leaving O'Connell Street on Saturday evening at 8pm and 8.30pm.

There is a shorter schedule of services on Sundays, between 10am and 1.45pm.

The only problem that people have highlighted with the schedule is that the gap in the morning is a big too long, and some have suggested an extra bus run during this time. But most people have nothing but praise for the service. "What would we do without it?" Peggy Clancy asked.

"There was a good crowd on it this morning at 10am, and nearly every time I see it passing by there is someone on it," Peggy said when she was talking to The Nationalist.

She went on to say that the drivers are very friendly and obliging and admits she didn't expect it to be as good as it is. In fact she is now suggesting that even when the bridges are rebuilt and there is no longer a need for the replacement service some company should consider a permanent bus service from the Old Bridge area to the larger supermarkets in Clonmel, for the older people and people without cars.

"I was used to walking in to town a couple of times a week, I loved my walk in and out," Peggy said.

Ronnie Fitzgerald has also used the bus to get from the Old Bridge in to the town centre. "If I have shopping or it's raining I use it," she said, "the drivers are nice. We have got to give it time, it won't please everyone but most people are happy."

Ronnie agreed with Peggy that some of the times are awkward and the break in the morning is too long. But in the first weeks of the service the numbers using the buses are being counted and it is possible some changes will be considered after a while. "If we had a bus at 11am maybe, because a lot of elderly people go in to town and 10am is too early."

The 3.15pm bus from town is proving very busy, Ronnie, who had just been on that bus, pointed out, with parents returning home with children they have collected from the Srs of Charity and the Gaelscoil.

Ronnie said that the unexpected social aspect of the bus trips is lovely. "Everyone has a chat on the bus. Before you would say hello but you were rushing, now we're having a chat.

"You get used to it quickly. The stop is near my home."

Jonathan Cooney, Engineer with Clonmel Borough Council, explained that the bus service was put out to national tender and there were six tenders received. Local company John O'Donoghue and Sons then won the contract.

They are keeping track of passenger numbers and he was pleased to report that in the first three days alone 600 passengers availed of the service.

A sub-committee of local residents is also involved in the consultation process and will help review the bus times, which Mr Cooney says could take place after a month of the service.