Friday 9 December 2016

Free travel subsidy is based on study from 43 years ago

Published 20/10/2016 | 02:30

Michael Taft, Research Officer Unite trade union (left) pictured alongside Willie Quigley, Regional Officer, Unite trade union arriving for the Oireachtas Transport Committee at Leinster House yesterday. Photo: Tom Burke
Michael Taft, Research Officer Unite trade union (left) pictured alongside Willie Quigley, Regional Officer, Unite trade union arriving for the Oireachtas Transport Committee at Leinster House yesterday. Photo: Tom Burke

State subsidies paid to CIÉ and Dublin Bus under the Free Travel Scheme are based on a 43-year-old survey that could be costing the cash-strapped companies millions every year.

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The Dáil Transport Committee heard the transport companies were being short-changed by the Department of Social Protection.

Unite's Michael Taft pointed to statements made by the secretary general of the department in which she said payments were based on "ridership surveys" from October 1973.

Since then the scheme has changed significantly, with the benefits being extended. Everyone aged 66 and over living permanently in the State is entitled to the Free Travel Scheme, while some people under 66 also qualify.

"It is clear from this that the Exchequer has not fully compensated CIÉ for the operation of the Free Travel Scheme," Mr Taft said.

"This has forced CIÉ to externalise this cost on to the public through reduced services and higher fares, and on to the workforce through depressed wages and working conditions."

He noted that funding for the scheme was frozen during the downturn.

CIÉ received about €61m between 2010 and 2016, but free travel recipients increased by 116,000.

"Assuming a relationship between the rise in recipients and the rise in costs, we could expect the Free Travel payment to CIÉ to increase from €61m in 2010 to €70.8m."

Irish Independent

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