Cities outside capital won't make Leap to cheaper travel
COMMUTERS in cities outside Dublin will not enjoy the benefits of cheaper bus and rail fares by using the 'smart' travel card officially launched yesterday.
The Department of Transport has confirmed there are no plans to roll out the Leap card to bus services in Cork, Galway, Limerick, and Waterford over the coming months, but that it will be considered at a later date.
Commonly used in cities around the world, 'smart' cards allow commuters to travel on bus, rail and tram without having to buy separate tickets for each leg of the journey.
Instead, they pre-pay and validate cards at magnetic readers installed at train and bus stops at the start and end of their journey, and a computer system calculates the appropriate fare and deducts it from the customer's account.
Fares are, on average, 9pc cheaper than paying by cash, meaning that holders and the new system will help offset the fare hikes announced last week by the National Transport Authority (NTA).
But the Government has yet to allocate money to roll out the system nationally.
"There are more public transport users in Dublin than elsewhere," Junior Minister Alan Kelly said. "We have plans to the roll out the Leap card to other areas, and when funding is provided we will do so. A national scheme is a priority but we will do it first in Dublin, then in other cities."
The card has been in the pipeline for more than a decade and will cost €55.4m. Some €48m has been spent so far, and the system will cost €6m a year to operate.
It works on DART, commuter rail into Dublin, Dublin Bus and Luas services and will be rolled out to Bus Eireann, private coach operators and Iarnrod Eireann inter-city services next year.
The NTA expects 250,000 commuters to switch to the new cards next year. They can be bought online at www.leapcard.ie or in 350 payzone outlets. Other tickets will be added next year including monthly/annual taxsaver tickets, Dublin Bus rambler tickets, school and student cards and the free travel card for OAPs.
People who have Luas and bus cards can continue to use them until they expire, and then switch over to Leap.