Free travel passes must be protected - Dessie Ellis TD
Sinn Féin Transport spokesperson Dessie Ellis TD has said that the free travel pass scheme which operates for pensioners and people with disabilities must be protected and its funding ensured for the future. He was responding to a proposal made to the working group reviewing the scheme that the travel pass should be limited to off-peak times.
Deputy Ellis continued;
"The free travel scheme is an incredibly important support to many people across the state. It is a vital support to a community with higher than average health concerns that need easy access to transport in order to attend hospital appointments but also to maintain a social life and independent living. The social benefit of the scheme is incalculable and vastly more than the cost to the state.
“I can understand where public transport companies are coming from in this proposal, but it is the wrong approach. If the government agree it is wrong, then they must commit to proper support for these companies.
"The reality is that in the last five years funding for the scheme has been frozen, but fares have gone up across the board to meet higher fuel costs and account for a dip in passenger numbers due to the economic climate. Public bus and rail funding has been cut on average by about 20% and they are struggling to maintain a quality service with extraordinarily low subsidies. The government have compounded this problem by seeking to privatise 10% of bus routes.
“The solution is adequate funding for public transport services and the free travel scheme so that companies are not losing money through the scheme. It is vital that public transport maintains its special place in society as a service provider for all the community especially those that are more vulnerable to isolation."