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Saturday 30 August 2014

Commuters pay up to 40pc more for public transport since recession hit

Paul Melia

Published 21/01/2013 | 05:00

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BUS and rail passengers have been hit with fare increases of up to 40pc since the economic crisis kicked in.

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Bus Eireann, Dublin Bus, Iarnrod Eireann and Luas users are paying up to €300 more a year for their commute after a series of hikes since 2008.

But people travelling in areas with private sector competition, particularly on bus routes, have escaped the worst of the increases.

Data from the public transport companies shows there has been no increase in Bus Eireann fares and only a 2pc hike in rail fares for services between Dublin and Galway. This is largely due to competition from private bus companies, including City Link and GoBus.

This compares with increases of 31pc on the Dublin-Rosslare train line and 21pc hikes on bus services to Waterford.

Streamline

Transport Minister Leo Varadkar has refused to rule out further increases, and CIE companies have been told to sell assets and streamline services to make them more efficient.

Newly released figures show the extent to which commuters have been hit by increases since 2008.

• The cost of an annual Dublin Bus ticket has risen 43pc since January 2008 – passengers pay €1,120 today compared with €780 five years ago.

• Commuter tickets in the Greater Dublin Area for Iarnrod Eireann and Luas rose between 16pc and 28pc.

• Dublin Bus cash fares for longer journeys have also been hit with hikes of 40pc, up from €2 to €2.80.

• Shorter Dublin Bus journeys have fallen in price, down to 65 cent from €1.05.

The highest increase for a monthly rail ticket is on the Dublin-Rosslare route (up 31pc), followed by Dublin-Sligo (24pc).

There has been no change in Bus Eireann fares between Dublin and Sligo and Dublin and Galway.

Higher ticket prices have been introduced because of falling passenger numbers and a cut in the government subsidy to the CIE group of companies.

State payments, or subvention, have fallen by more than €60m since 2008, with further cuts due.

Since 2008, the companies have reduced costs by €170m. Further reductions are on the way, including job losses.

But passengers may be forced to help make up the shortfall with more fare increases in the coming years.

The hikes were defended by the companies, which said annual tickets still represented good value.

Dublin Bus said its annual tickets offered unlimited travel and cost only €4.87 a day. Reclaiming the tax under the taxsaver scheme reduced this figure to between €2.34 and €3.36 a day for workers.

But the Consumers' Association of Ireland described the increases as "outrageous".

"There have been no income increases in that period, they've either gone down or been frozen," said association chief Dermott Jewell.

"That's an outrageous increase.

"It's also unlikely to be the last of the fare increases. The reality is that for consumers to take these increases they have to cut back or cut out other purchases, and that is having an effect on businesses, with closures."

Passengers lobby group Rail Users Ireland said the increases were disproportionate and came despite any real improvements in services.

"The service to Rosslare hasn't got any better but it's gone up 31pc," said spokesman Mark Gleeson.

"The increases are disproportionate. There's no analysis of how good the services are when the fares are being decided. There's no customer evaluation, there's just a raw financial analysis.

"There's an argument that by cutting fares you will get more customers, but they are going to keep going up."

Bus Eireann said inter-city services were priced to take competition into account, while the Railway Procurement Agency said the Luas lines were longer after extensions were opened to the Point and Saggart.

Irish Independent

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