Prudent pre-payers hit with hikes in bus fares
PRUDENT Dublin Bus passengers who pay less by purchasing pre-paid tickets will be hit with new fare hikes from next Sunday.
The National Transport Authority (NTA) has given the cash-strapped company permission to increase fares on pre-paid tickets by up to 5pc from May 1. Fares were increased in February for passengers who pay in cash.
Consumer watchdogs last night criticised the new hikes.
"It's frustrating because there was such a big deal made at the time that there would be no increase on the pre-paid, which meant people moved to those tickets," Consumer Association of Ireland chief executive Dermott Jewell said.
"That benefit has been taken away. The difficulty here is that people don't have any choice. It's getting increasingly difficult to save money under any circumstances."
The NTA last night confirmed the average fare increase for an adult buying a pre-paid ticket would be 3.3pc. However, students will be hardest hit with hikes of more than 5pc.
A five-day student rambler ticket, which offers unlimited use of the bus, will rise from €15.70 to €16.50, while a 30-day student rambler will increase from €78 to €82 -- a hike of 5.1pc.
Child and schoolchild ticket prices are not affected.
The move comes amid falling passenger numbers, a cut in state support and increased fuel costs, and it follows hikes in the cost of train tickets announced in February.
The Government has also slashed a subsidy -- called a subvention -- it pays to the group by €44.5m since 2010.
The NTA said Dublin Bus passenger numbers had fallen by 5pc in the first three months of this year.
"The company, therefore, was obliged to revisit its prepaid fares rather than risk reducing services to customers," it said.
An Bord Snip Nua author, economist Colm McCarthy, last week urged the State to consider privatising the company as he revealed the average salary across Dublin Bus was €54,000.
Private bus operators' group the Coach Tourism and Transport Council claims wages in Dublin Bus are 40pc above the industry norm.
They claim €60m could be shaved from costs if routes were tendered to the private sector.
"One of the reasons they are hiking costs is because of their inefficiencies," chief executive Gerry Mullins said.