Friday 24 March 2017

Fares to go up as CIE faces €52m funding cut

Paul Melia

Paul Melia

COMMUTERS face hikes in bus and rail fares because of falling passenger numbers and cuts in state funding.

The National Transport Authority (NTA), which sets fares across the CIE group of companies and Luas, yesterday confirmed that increases were "very likely" and that passengers would have to pay more to use public transport, possibly before the end of the year.

The level of increases have not yet been decided, but this will be the third in just three years.

Luas, Dublin Bus, Iarnrod Eireann and Bus Eireann were given increases in January 2009, with all except Luas getting a further increase earlier this year.

CIE passenger numbers have fallen, with 25 million fewer trips made last year.

In April, Transport Minister Leo Varadkar told the Dail that the annual government subvention to the company -- worth €263m last year -- would drop.

Yesterday he said the cuts could be in the region of 20pc -- slashing about €52m from its budget.

A spokeswoman for the NTA said it was "very likely" that fares would go up, possibly before Christmas.

"We don't know the level yet," she said. "It depends on the subsidy in the Budget which is a significant factor, but there are other important elements like running costs and passenger numbers. Luas isn't subvented but we do have fare-setting authority. We need to sit down with Luas and look at passenger numbers and revenue requirements, and fares."

The proposed hikes were criticised last night by the Consumers' Association of Ireland, which said it was "worrying" that commuters were forced to pay more at a time when they were struggling to make ends meet.

Savings

Spokesman Dermott Jewell said: "A lot of people have moved to public transport and they would have a good expectation that this would be as hard as it would get until next year.''

Luas, which recorded an 8pc increase in passenger numbers last year and a small profit of €1m, confirmed it would be seeking a fare increase but that it didn't have a "figure in mind".

CIE said it had reduced annual costs by more than €150m since 2008, and would continue to seek savings. It is understood the company will seek a fare increase.

Increases have ranged from 3pc to 10pc in the last three years. The new 'smart-card' travel system will be rolled out by the end of the year and is expected to offer discounts on pre-paid fares.

Irish Independent

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