Dáil debates

Tuesday, 10 May 2022

Saincheisteanna Tráthúla - Topical Issue Debate

Public Transport

11:00 pm

Photo of Anne RabbitteAnne Rabbitte (Galway East, Fianna Fail) | Oireachtas source

I thank Deputy Collins for raising this important topic, which I am taking on behalf of the Minister, Deputy Ryan. I understand the Deputy’s question is in regard to the extension of the recently introduced 20% fare reduction initiative on public transport services to include private transport operators.

Commercial bus and coach operators are an integral part of the overall public transport system in Ireland. They play a pivotal role, particularly in areas around the country which are not covered by existing public bus and rail services. In recognition of this important role, the Government has continued to provide temporary financial supports through the Covid-19 pandemic with a view to protecting capacity across the public transport system. I am pleased to inform the Deputy that these financial supports were extended earlier this year up until 30 June 2022. To date, almost €60 million of State funding has been provided to support commercial bus operators during what has been a challenging time as transport demand patterns evolved in response to the pandemic.

In regard to the 20% fare reduction initiative, it is important to highlight that this measure was introduced as part of a suite of Government measures to help combat the rising cost of living. The Government allocated €54 million in Exchequer funding to support this transport initiative. The fare reduction was rolled out to public service obligation, PSO, services outside the greater Dublin area from 11 April and nationwide from 9 May. These discounted fares will benefit the hundreds of thousands of people across the country who use PSO public service transport every day in 2022. The fare reduction is funded until the end of this year.

However, the funding allocation does not include an extension of the scheme to commercial operators. Unlike with PSO services, the National Transport Authority, NTA, does not set, monitor or regulate fares on services run by commercial operators. The operators themselves set fares on their services based on their own commercial judgment. While it is not currently intended to include the commercial operators as part of the 20% average fare reduction initiative, it has always been the Minister's intention to include these operators as part of the longer-term young adult card initiative announced as part of budget 2022.

In recognition of the importance of incentivising more young people to use public transport, funding was secured to provide for the introduction of the young adult card on both PSO and commercial services. This measure will allow any person nationwide between the ages of 19 and 23 years to avail of an entitlement for discounted travel costs and to increase the level of discount over and above the current student discount to an average discount of 50% across all services, including city, intercity and rural services. The young adult card was launched on PSO services at the start of this week, with more than 1,000 applications received by the NTA on launch day alone. The initiative will be broadened to include commercial operators later this year, with the aim to have it in place before the recommencement of third level colleges.

The time lag is due to the fact it is technically more challenging to roll out fare initiatives such as the young adult card on the commercial bus network than it is on the Leap-enabled PSO network. An array of various ticketing equipment is in use on fleet used by commercial operators and needs to be catered for. To expedite the process, the NTA has established a joint working group with commercial bus operators to consider options and to develop a plan to implement the young adult card in as timely a manner as possible. Such fare initiatives will be of great benefit to the public transport user and will promote a modal shift into the transport sector.


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