More than 1,300 free travel passes confiscated in 2017

Inspection campaigns lead to sharp rise in number caught misusing card

The Department of Social Protection said 88 per cent of the total free travel customers had a public services card at the end of last year. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien

The Department of Social Protection said 88 per cent of the total free travel customers had a public services card at the end of last year. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien

 

More than 1,300 free travel passes were confiscated last year, almost double the amount a year earlier.

The Department of Social Protection said “highly successful inspection campaigns” had led to the increase.

In 798 cases the pass was confiscated as it was not being used by the person named on it. A further 242 passes were blocked as the person’s old revoked card was still in use, while 129 were found to be no longer entitled to free travel.

Figures obtained under the Freedom of Information Act show there were 83 forged passes with 59 cards returned as they were damaged. Some 700 passes were confiscated in 2016.

“The department actively engages with all transport operators in the prevention of fraud and provides all necessary assistance including access to dedicated phone lines to enable inspectors validate passes,” a spokeswoman said.

“In recent years the department has been involved in highly successful inspection campaigns with the transport operators which has led to a greater number of free travel pass confiscations and has significantly reduced the level of fraudulent activity on the free travel pass scheme.”

Fraudulent activity

The department said the introduction the public services card had helped to “significantly reduce the level of fraudulent activity on the free travel pass scheme”.

The card, which was introduced in 2014, allows people to access a range of government services and payments and will eventually replace the paper pass. The department said 88 per cent (796,000) of the total free travel customers had a public services card at the end of last year.

Currently anyone aged 66 and over, living permanently in the State, is entitled to travel under the free travel scheme. Others who may apply include those in receipt of the disability allowance, blind pension, carer’s allowance and invalidity pension. Free travel is available on all State bus and rail services and Dublin’s Luas.

Justin Moran, head of advocacy and communications at Age Action, said the organisation had received complaints regarding the public services card.

“We’ve certainly had people contacting us to complain about the card and what many older people have seen as onerous demands for information,” Mr Moran said. “They’d prefer to just keep using the one they have.”