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Friday 19 September 2014

Scrapping of free travel pass 'not on the agenda'

Emma Jane Hade

Published 01/07/2014 | 02:30

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Minister for  Transport, Tourism and Sport Leo Varadkar pictured with  Minister for Public Transport Alan Kelly, as he  prepares to cut the cake, at the LUAS 10th brithday celebrations at the Green LUAS  stop on Dublin's St Stephens Green yesterday.
Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Leo Varadkar pictured with Minister for Public Transport Alan Kelly, as he prepares to cut the cake, at the LUAS 10th brithday celebrations at the Green LUAS stop on Dublin's St Stephens Green yesterday.

TRANSPORT Minister Leo Varadkar has given assurances that the Government does not intend to revoke the free travel pass and instead proposes to "modernise" the scheme, amid fears that have been brewing over its future.

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The free travel pass – which allows people over the age of 65 to travel with state-funded transport operators and up to 90 different private companies for free – was recently reviewed by a working group comprised of members from an interdepartmental government panel and the National Transport Authority.

It is understood that the Government has come under increasing pressure from transport companies to increase funding, as many private companies are believed to have threatened to withdraw their services from the scheme which costs €77m annually.

The number of people who travel with the free pass is thought to be at least 1.1 million, when holders companions are also accounted for.

Mr Varadkar said yesterday that the free travel pass is "very much valued" by the Government.

He said that "any suggestion that we are going to take away the free travel pass for pensioners just isn't on the agenda", but that there are issues surrounding it which need to be addressed, particularly in relation to the issue of "fraud and IDs".

Kevin Traynor - national director of the Coach Tourism and Transport Council of Ireland – said that members of his organisation are "fully supportive" of the free travel scheme. However, he said that while the numbers of pass holders has steadily increased funding hasn't received a boost for four years.

"What you have to remember is that while revenues have stayed static, costs haven't," he said. "Costs of diesel, wages, parts and there is more and more legislation coming in to this area so there are even costs associated with that as well."

Irish Independent

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