Tuesday, 26 February 2019
Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection
Free Travel Scheme
612. To ask the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if a review will be undertaken of the payment structure of the free travel scheme, that is, the percentage of commercial fares paid to State transport operators for the provision of the free travel scheme. [9294/19]
The free travel scheme provides free travel on the main public and private transport services for those eligible under the scheme. These include road, rail and ferry services provided by companies such as Bus Átha Cliath, Bus Éireann and Iarnród Éireann, as well as Luas and services provided by over 80 private transport operators. There are currently approx. 937,000 customers with direct eligibility. Following recent announcements in Budget 2019 the funding for the free travel scheme was increased by €5 million to a total of €95 million.
My Department makes a block payment to the CIÉ group and the apportionment of payment between the three constituent companies, Bus Éireann, Bus Átha Cliath and Iarnród Éireann is a matter for the CIÉ Group. This payment reflects a range of factors negotiated over the years including fare increases, peak time access to free travel, service improvements, changes and enhancements. A discount of 40% is applied to reflect the fares foregone nature of the scheme. In 2018, in excess of €69 million was paid to the CIÉ Group for the free travel scheme.
In Budget 2018 an additional €10 million was provided for the free travel scheme and this allowed for the arrangements for Bus Éireann – Expressway to be brought in line with those of other commercial operators participating in the scheme. The discount applied on free travel payments to Bus Éireann- Expressway was reduced from 40% to 30%, putting Bus Éireann – Expressway on an equal footing with other commercial operators participating in the free travel scheme.
While my Department is always available and willing to consider proposals with respect to payments made to transport operators, these would have to be considered in the context of overall budgetary negotiations.
I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.