Thursday, 23 June 2022
Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport
As Minister for Transport, I have responsibility for policy and overall funding in relation to public transport. I am not involved in the day-to-day operations of public transport, nor decisions on fares.
It is the National Transport Authority (NTA) that has the statutory responsibility for the regulation of fares in relation to public passenger transport services and for securing the provision of public transport services by way of public transport services contracts in respect of services that are socially necessary but commercially unviable. The funding of those services comprises both the fares paid by passengers and the subvention payments from the Exchequer. The main purpose of the subvention payment is to meet the gap between income from fares and the cost of operating services.
The provision of public transport services is heavily dependent on passenger fare revenue as it normally contributes about 65% of the operational cost. The remaining 35% of cost is covered by the PSO grant and the Department of Social Protection grant under the free travel scheme.
Prior to COVID-19, €287 million of Exchequer funding was provided for PSO services in Budget 2020; however, since 2020, additional funding has been required to continue to address the significant COVID impacts on public transport provision. In 2022, I secured €538m to support PSO services including over €200m to address COVID expenses (i.e. loss of fare revenue, cleaning costs). Up to €12m will be provided as ongoing support for the licensed bus sector; while, over €15m has also been allocated to support Local Link regular service provision in rural Ireland.
As the Deputy will be aware, a 20% average reduction is being introduced on PSO services as part of a suite of Government measures to help combat the rising cost of living. This fare reduction was applied to all services outside the Greater Dublin Area (GDA) from the 11th of April and nationwide from the 9th of May. The fare reduction will be in place until the end of the year and €54m in Exchequer funding has been secured to allow for the introduction of these discounted fares, this is in addition to the REV22 allocations. As such, I would like to see the 20% fare reduction continue into 2023; however, I am acutely aware of the competing pressures across the system and the finite Exchequer resources. The funding implications of all measures must be considered in the round so I will work closely with Minister McGrath and other Government colleagues in the context of the 2023 Estimates process to see what we can do with regard to supporting public transport services.
The 20% fare reduction comes on top of several other measures that we are progressing to encourage greater public transport patronage. For instance, the Young Adult Card, which provides an average 50% fare discount for those aged between 19 and 23 on both PSO and commercial services. As well as the TFI 90 Minute Fares scheme which means that adults now pay €2, young adults pay €1, and children pay just 65 cent to travel for up to 90 minutes on Dublin Bus, Luas and most DART, commuter rail and Go-Ahead Ireland services in Dublin. In May alone, the number of people who had a Child Leap Card, Student Leap Card, or the new Young Adult Leap Card increased by over 16,000, which is very encouraging.
While fare reductions are to be welcomed, investment in additional services is also critical. For this reason, I am committed to progressing core projects like BusConnects, Connecting Ireland and DART+ as well as improving existing services across the country.
The PSO programme represents a significant expenditure of taxpayers' money, and funding has increased in recent years to cater for additional services and growing capacity. Any assessment of a proposed change to public transport fare structures would be a matter for the NTA to consider in the first instance. Therefore, in light of the Authority's responsibility in this area I have forwarded the Deputy's specific question in relation to the cost of public transport, to the NTA for direct reply. Please advise my private office if you do not receive a response within ten working days.