Thursday 23 November 2017

New travel smartcard fails to make the Leap with commuters

Just 6pc of all 500,000 daily Dublin Bus journeys are made with the prepaid card, according to National Transport Authority (NTA ) figures obtained by the Irish Independent. Photo: Getty Images
Just 6pc of all 500,000 daily Dublin Bus journeys are made with the prepaid card, according to National Transport Authority (NTA ) figures obtained by the Irish Independent. Photo: Getty Images

Treacy Hogan Environment Correspondent

LESS than 10pc of commuters are using the Leap 'smartcard' six months after it was introduced at a cost to taxpayers of more than €55m.

Just 6pc of all 500,000 daily Dublin Bus journeys, 7pc of the 90,000 Luas trips and 10pc of the 100,000 work-day journeys on Irish Rail Dart and commuter services are made with the prepaid card, according to National Transport Authority (NTA ) figures obtained by the Irish Independent.

The low level of take-up comes after a series of glitches since the card was launched.

More than 97,000 people have so far signed up for a Leap card, topping up more than €8.8m in travel credit on these cards. And about 2,000 people each week are getting Leap cards.

However, Leap card usage is still significantly behind its London counterpart, the Oyster card, which is used for more than 96pc of all underground tube journeys and 96pc of bus travel.

The NTA insists that the Leap card "has got off to a really encouraging start".

Smart cards allow commuters to travel on bus, rail and tram without having to buy tickets for each leg of a journey.

Instead, they prepay the cards which are waved across magnetic readers at each end of their journey.

A computer system calculates the appropriate fare and deducts it from the customer's account.

Users pay a refundable €5 deposit when buying the card online or from one of 400 agent shops around the capital and they must top up by a minimum of €5 travel credit.

If customers register their Leap card, they can top up online.

Cards can also be topped-up at Luas ticket machines -- however, they still cannot be bought, or topped-up, at train stations.

Leap is up to 11pc cheaper than Dublin Bus single tickets paid with cash, up to 17pc cheaper than Luas single fares, and up to 18pc cheaper than Dart and commuter rail single fares.

Despite this, it is clear from the figures that most passengers still prefer to pay cash or buy weekly or monthly bus or rail tickets, rather than get prepaid Leap cards.

Many workers have also taken out tax-efficient yearly travel tickets, which have yet to be incorporated into the Leap card.

Three state transport companies, Dublin Bus, Irish Rail, and the Rail Procurement Agency, responsible for Luas, are paying a total of €6m a year to bankroll the day-to-day operating costs of the scheme.

Initiatives

The NTA says it's planning a range of new initiatives, including allowing Leap card top-ups at Irish Rail ticket machines, and automatic top-up from bank accounts.

"Over 4.5 million passenger journeys have already been taken using a Leap Card. Over 97,000 people have already got their card and sales remain strong," the authority says. "Over €8.8m on travel credit has been topped-up by users since launch."

Irish Independent

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