Fares to rise to help bail out transport companies
BUS and rail passengers will be hit with fare hikes of up to 2pc next year to help shore up our public transport companies.
The National Transport Authority (NTA) says it expects increases in line with the rate of inflation, plus another 1pc to 1.5pc, to help restore the finances of the CIE group of companies, which includes Iarnrod Eireann, Bus Eireann and Dublin Bus.
Cash fares will be hit with the highest increases, NTA chief executive Gerry Murphy said, but passengers could reduce their travel bills by using the Leap smart-transport card – which will be fully rolled out in Dublin, Galway, Cork, Limerick and Waterford before the end of next year.
The move will result in relatively modest increases, particularly for cash fares. A €1.80 fare on Dublin Bus will increase by 4c. The Leap fare is €1.45, which will rise by 3c.
The fare hikes will not be finalised until the end of the year, and were likely to be the last of the big increases, added Mr Murphy. Future increases were expected to remain in line with inflation.
"Our general thoughts are that a very significant amount of fare increases have been granted, and fares have migrated to a level that is matching general international comparisons," he said.
"We see fare increases following the pattern of CPI (consumer price index, or rate of inflation), but we haven't done the analysis yet. There's impacts on wages and fuel and general costs, so why shouldn't public transport fares reflect this.
"We're looking at CPI plus 1pc or 1.5pc for 2015. If there was plenty of subsidy available, you might want to reduce fares again but I don't see that space will be there for quite a long time."
CIE recorded a net deficit of €11.6m last year, the bulk of which resulted from heavy losses in Iarnrod Eireann. Inflation is running at 0.3pc.
The NTA wants to encourage people to move away from paying in cash, to cut dwell times at stops, and cash handling fees. Some 37pc of passenger journeys in the Dublin Area are made using the Leap card.
Mr Murphy said the smart travel card – which offers 16pc discounts on cash fares – would be rolled out in Cork and Galway before the end of the year, and that a new incentive would be in place by the autumn offering cheaper travel. "This autumn, if you use a second mode of public transport within 90 minutes you will get a steep discount," he said. "For example, you could pay the fare and get the train in from Malahide. You get on the bus, and you might get €1 off.
"It's to reduce the financial penalty of taking a second mode of public transport."
Leap is already available for adult use in Cork on buses, and will be extended to children and students in September. By early next year, it will also be available for use on trains.
The card will be in Galway in the autumn, available both on Bus Eireann and the private City Direct service. It will be extended to rail in the city over 2015, and also rolled out in Waterford and Limerick. The same Leap card can be used in any of the cities.