Commuters' bill for yearly travel to soar by €100
COMMUTERS will be hit with massive fare hikes on all public transport services from January 1, adding almost €100 to annual travel bills.
The National Transport Authority (NTA) has approved fare increases on all Iarnrod Eireann, Dublin Bus, Bus Eireann and Luas services.
The increases range between 3pc and 15pc, with commuters in the capital hardest hit.
The reason for the increases is a combination of higher fuel costs, falling passenger numbers, and a €21m cut in the government subsidy paid to the CIE companies of Bus Eireann, Dublin Bus and Iarnrod Eireann.
Dublin Bus customers will have to pay the most. Cash fares will rise by an average of 15pc, with a single adult ticket increasing from €1.20 to €1.40.
The increase will add 40c to travel costs per day, or €2 a week.
Commuters who work 48 weeks a year will be forced to pay an total additional €96 in bus fares to get to work in 2012.
The hikes were sharply criticised by the Consumers Association of Ireland which said they could force people off public transport and into the car.
"The timing couldn't be worse," spokesman Dermott Jewell said.
"This is very bad news for commuters. Just days after the Budget, people are seeing this level of increase. This will frighten any consumers from spending what money they have.
"The quality of the service has gone down, routes have been joined up, and now there's significant increases despite that reduced level of service.
"I think there's no question that people will consider using the car.
"This will cause a huge amount of difficulty for people who have already taken hits in the Budget."
This is the third fare increase commuters have been forced to pay in the past three years and comes as most of the public transport companies continue to lose customers because of the downturn.
Further hikes could also be on the cards, because the Government plans to reduce the subsidy to the CIE companies by €32m over the next three years.
A spokesman for Transport Minister Leo Varadkar said the companies had been told to reduce costs before seeking further increases.
"There will be discussions with CIE and the individual companies so savings come before fare increases," he said. "The minster wants to see efficiencies, but that does not extend to further fare increases or service changes that will affect customers."
The biggest fare rise was sought by Dublin Bus, which sought increases between 25pc and 36pc to yield additional income of €18m a year.
Its funding has been cut by €10.7m since 2010, and it has increased prepaid fares twice since (mid-2010 and mid-2011) and cash fares once, at the end of last year, by 6.3pc.
The NTA defended the hikes, saying that all operators suffered deficits in this year and would incur deficits in 2012.
It advised customers to sign up to use the new smart travel card, called Leap, which goes on sale next week and which offers discounted fares of 9pc over cash fares.