Thursday, 13 June 2019
Nithe i dtosach suíonna (Atógáil) - Commencement Matters (Resumed)
Free Travel Scheme
I am taking this matter on behalf of the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection, Deputy Regina Doherty.As Senators will be aware, the free-travel scheme is available for all people aged over 66 years, carers and people in receipt of certain disability-type payments. Currently, 944,000 customers are in receipt of the scheme, with an annual allocation of €95 million, and it covers CIÉ transport, Luas and some 80 private operators.
The scheme was introduced to promote social inclusion and prevent the isolation of elderly and disabled people by taking advantage of free space on public transport services. As previously stated, it permits free travel on services provided by operators which accept the pass; it does not guarantee a seat on every service. It is at the discretion of companies participating in the free travel scheme if they wish to offer seat-reservation services to their customers on certain services. There is no requirement on Irish Rail or any other participating transport provider to provide the facility to free travel pass holders, nor to any other customer.
The Department has been informed Irish Rail provides an option to a range of ticket holders, including free travel pass holders, to book a seat-only reservation to ensure a seat on heavily loaded Irish Rail services. Customers with a free travel pass who wish to reserve seats can avail of the offer by logging on to the Irish Rail website and entering their travel requirements. I understand that Irish Rail has set the cost for booking a seat from €2.50 per person per leg of journey where such a facility is available. Wheelchair users who wish to reserve a seat on Irish Rail services can do so by emailing or telephoning Irish Rail at no charge. The provision of such a facility as pre-booking is outside the remit of the Department. Any queries about the advance booking of seats on public transport services and the cost of such bookings should be addressed to the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport.