Speaking in the Seanad, Sinn Féin’s Senator Kathryn Reilly called on the Minister for Social Protection to reinstate free travel for those affected by Bus Éireann route cuts where new arrangements have been put in place.
She said entitlements to free travel were being “whittled away” and that licensed services replacing Bus Éireann routes should be “empowered to operate the free travel scheme”.
Senator Reilly said:
“Those running a replacement bus service for West Cavan have discovered they can’t take free bus passes as they will be considered as a “new applicant”, but this company is offering the same service for the rural community as Bus Éireann did before the cuts.
“The Department has said it is not in a position to consider applications for additional routes to the free travel scheme as the scheme expenditure has been frozen at 2010 levels in line with the National Recovery Plan 2011-2014.
“What provision is being made for people who had been availing of the free travel scheme under Bus Éireann and now cannot travel free?
“Entitlements to free travel are being whittled away by government cutbacks and the ability of people in rural Ireland to travel affordably is being diminished. There was huge relief in the communities of West Cavan at news of an alternative service after withdrawal of routes by Bus Éireann, but this is a blow to the community.
“The companies who step in to provide these vital rural services are very reputable and provide rural and inter-urban services not provided by Bus Éireann. Sometimes they provide the only transport in an area and as they are licenced, should be able to operate the free travel scheme.
“On these routes in West Cavan and in many other parts of the country, people would not have effective access to free travel without the services of these companies.”