THOUSANDS of customers have been overcharged by Dublin's Leap card travel system in its first year.
Figures obtained by the Irish Independent show the operators of the integrated travel pass have been forced to refund more than 7,500 customers who were charged too much for journeys during 2012.
The vast bulk of the problems occurred at Irish Rail stations because of faulty validator machines.
A total of 7,120 Irish Rail passengers received refunds in the first year of operation up to December 2012, as did 250 Dublin Bus customers and 180 Luas passengers, unpublished figures from the National Transport Authority (NTA) show.
Most overcharging occurs because the maximum possible train fare is deducted when passengers swipe their cards at the beginning of a journey. But they should then be automatically reimbursed for a shorter trip when they swipe off at their destination – which doesn't happen if the validator at the station is broken.
National rail users organisation Rail Users Ireland condemned the high level of overcharging experienced on Leap card rail journeys which it said was unacceptable.
"Seven thousand is a crazy figure for refunds, and there could be thousands more people who aren't even aware they've been overcharged" said spokesman Mark Gleeson.
"Passengers have to register their cards and then actively request a refund to obtain one, but many people might not know how to go about this or may not even be aware they've been overcharged.
"There will always be some faults but while the figures on Dublin Bus and Luas are probably what you'd expect, those on Irish Rail are excessive and could damage passenger confidence," he said.
"There had been repeated problems at Seapoint, Clonsilla, Glenageary and Dalkey stations, and the Leap card operators should be running reports every day and automatically crediting customers who had been overcharged because validators weren't working," he added.
The Leap card system, which involves a prepaid card that can be used on train, bus and tram journeys in the Dublin area, was launched a year ago, a decade later than planned and €26m over budget.
An NTA spokeswoman said the number of refunds on rail journeys was "higher than is desirable". "Irish Rail are currently addressing the intermittent equipment faults to which they attribute these problems," she said.
The refunds on Irish Rail amounted to 0.36pc of the nearly two million journeys made using Leap cards last yea, meaning passengers were overcharged on one in every 300 journeys.
The NTA said that using a Leap card could save passengers between 15pc and 18pc on the price of purchasing single journey tickets, as they are charged at a lower rate.