Tuesday 21 November 2017

More bus and rail hikes on way as services cut, CIE chief warns

Treacy Hogan and Emmet Oliver

TRANSPORT chiefs are planning to introduce further hikes in bus and rail fares -- while also cutting services.

Outgoing CIE chairman Dr John Lynch said "lightly used" rail services were likely to be cut and fares would definitely be rising across all CIE services.

Dr Lynch, who retires officially next week, said two lines expected to be most closely scrutinised were Limerick-Waterford and Limerick-Nenagh.

However, the main regional routes were likely to be safe.

Dr Lynch said fares would have to rise as the two types of revenue CIE depends on -- from government and paying passengers -- were falling. He said that how much fares would rise was a matter for Transport Minister Leo Varadkar.

"I would be concerned,'' he said, about what might happen to services. He added that the biggest problem for Dublin Bus was the number of foreign nationals leaving Ireland in the past two years.

"They were very significant users of the bus services," he said.

However, Michael Kilcoyne, chairman of the Consumers' Association of Ireland (CAI), has warned that more bus and rail fare hikes would further deter people from using public transport services. Mr Kilcoyne said fares should be pitched at levels that would encourage bus and rail use by commuters.

"The more expensive he (Mr Varadkar) makes them, the less people will use them. And people who need to do things will use their cars.

Review

"The minister should review this now or it means that more people will be using their cars again," he added.

However, further cuts in services are imminent. The Irish Independent has learnt that two rail routes -- the Limerick-Waterford and Limerick-Nenagh services -- could face the axe shortly.

Yesterday Mr Varadkar said there would have to be fare increases and reductions in services at CIE to counter losses and the drop in passenger numbers.

Iarnrod Eireann, Dublin Bus and Bus Eireann lost 25 million passenger journeys last year alone.

Mr Varadkar said CIE provided a good service in many areas but faced problems including falling passenger numbers, a pension deficit and a reduction in state subsidies.

He said the level of fare increases had not yet been determined. It would depend on how much could be saved in cost cuts and how many more people were encouraged to use public transport.

"There will probably have to be some level of fare increases, unfortunately," he added.

Meanwhile, the proposed "Network Direct" initiative by Dublin Bus will result in numerous changes to bus routes, timetables and the frequency of services across the network.

Popular buses -- including the 48A serving Dundrum and the number 3 bus serving Ringsend -- will be among those affected.

Other areas affected include: Inchicore; Donnycarney; Crumlin; Ballymun; Whitehall; Finglas; Clondalkin and Dun Laoghaire.

The changes are proposed over a phased-in basis in coming months with some route changes already in effect.

Irish Independent

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