COMMUTERS who pay cash to use public transport have been hammered with fare hikes of up to 62pc over the last five years.
Dublin Bus cash users have been especially badly hit, as transport authorities hike fares and try to encourage commuters to migrate to the Leap Card.
Despite limited inflation in the economy since the economic crash, the National Transport Authority (NTA) yesterday approved yet another tranche of increases.
A study by the Herald has revealed how in some cases, fares have jumped by a massive 62.5pc when compared to those levied in 2011. That percentage was the biggest increase.
A Dublin Bus user travelling between one and three stages paid €1.20 in 2011 - the fare will rise to €1.95 after yesterday's NTA announcement.
Dublin Bus users travelling more than 14 stages were charged €2.30 in 2011, which has gone up to €3.30, a 43.4pc increase.
Meanwhile, yearly and monthly open travel tickets for Dublin Bus have both increased by 32pc in the period, to €1,320 and €132 respectively.
As the NTA has modified the charging structure for travel zones, costs and prepaid travel deals have made it difficult to provide exact comparisons.
For example, a Luas red line peak ticket to travel through one zone was €2 in 2012, now there is a flat €2.20 cash charge for the same journey.
Using a Leap Card would mean a €1.75 charge for the same journey at peak time, or €1.70 at off-peak times.
The biggest hike at Irish Rail has come for journeys within Zone A. In 2012, such a journey cost €1.50, however that has increased by 43.33pc to €2.15.
Bus Eireann fares are also set to rise by an average of 5pc, when the new scheme is introduced from November. The hikes have been condemned as targeting the most vulnerable and those without cars.
Fianna Fail transport spokesman Timmy Dooley said the latest round of price hikes raises "serious questions" about the role of the NTA.
"The authority is supposed to protect the consumer, however over the past number of years it has approved a series of fare increases across all modes of public transport, forcing the customer to fork out once again," he said. "The NTA should be encouraging people to use public transport instead of making it less cost effective.
"With the increase in people returning to work, transport companies have an opportunity to capitalise on new commuters, however these consecutive price rises are actually deterring customers, and in many cases people are opting to use their cars," he added.
Even a Government senator has expressed concerns about the fare increases.
Fine Gael's Catherine Noone, who is on the industrial and commercial panel, said the change may affect some of the most vulnerable in Dublin.
"This is going to impact on people significantly - particularly those on lower incomes who don't receive any kind of transport pass," she said.
"The rise of cash fares has been implemented to incentivise conversion to the Leap Card and I would encourage everyone who can to do so, but Dublin Bus needs to consider the most vulnerable," she added.
But the chief executive of the NTA, Gerry Murphy, has defended the increases and said that the cash fares were going up - but only marginally so with the Leap Card.
"Fares are going up because costs are going up and also because subvention, although it has stabilised this year, was cut significantly during the economic crisis. We are simply putting up fares so that the service can be maintained," he said. He stressed that one of the features that the authority was trying to stress over the last number of years was to encourage Leap Card use.
"If I look across all the operators I see that the fares in 2015 in many cases and in most is cheaper than the cash fare was back in 2012 (for Leap Cards)," he added.
Mr Murphy said that there were 750,000 Leap Cards in circulation and almost €2m a week used in travel credit.
"Even with the fares increases announced today - a Leap Card fare in 2015 will nearly always be the same as or lower than a cash fare was in 2012," he added.