CHEAPER journeys on DART trains at off-peak times are under consideration, according to Transport Minister Leo Varadkar.
And cheaper bus trips in Dublin at off-peak times could also be considered following the public backing of cheaper fares from the minister.
The minister admitted that an off-peak train or bus seemingly “carries air, rather than passengers”, around the city at quieter periods.
Mr Varadkar backed a move by Dublin TD Terence Flanagan who asked him if discussions had taken place between the National Transport Authority and Irish Rail regarding the possibility of cheaper fares |on the DART during off-peak times.
The minister has now publicly stated he would support the proposal for cheaper journeys on the DART at non-rush hour times for a trial period.
This year, his department has a target to increase overall public transport use by 2pc, or five million passenger journeys, on State-backed public transport – DART, Irish Rail, Dublin Bus and Bus Eireann.
Mr Varadkar forwarded details of a parliamentary question by Deputy Flanagan to Gerry Murphy, chief executive of the National Transport Authority.
Mr Murphy told the TD in a letter that no discussions had yet taken place between the Authority and Iarnrod Eireann concerning the introduction of lower off-peak fares.
The transport chief stated: “The Authority is open to the idea, that it can be demonstrated that such fares would stimulate sufficient extra passenger journeys to generate an overall increase in revenue, and also that there are no technical impediments to putting an |off-peak fare in place. Accordingly, the Authority will now proceed with a preliminary examination of this issue in consultation with Iarnrod Eireann,” said Mr Murphy.
Mr Varadkar, supporting cheaper off-peak fares for commuters, said: “I think it makes sense. DART is very busy at peak times, but for much of the day it carries air rather than passengers.
“The same goes for buses. It makes sense to me to reduce off-peak fares if we can show that it will encourage more people to use public transport.” Meanwhile, Fine Gael TD Simon Harris asked the minister in a parliamentary question why a plan to extend the Luas tram service to Bray that been shelved, the cost of such an extension, and whether it had been the subject of a cost benefit analysis.
The minister replied that the development of the Luas network a came under the remit of the National Transport Authority and he had passed the query to the Authority.