Free travel for pensioners not sustainable in its present form

Funding frozen at 2010 level of 77 million euro

The All-Island Free Travel pass which was launched in 2007

The All-Island Free Travel pass which was launched in 2007

 

The free travel scheme for pensioners is not sustainable in its current form, the Department of Social Protection warned in its pre-budget submission to the Government, according to documents published yesterday.

Funding of the scheme has been frozen at the 2010 level of €77 million. It was introduced by the then minister for finance Charles Haughey in the late 1960s and has not been altered in recent budgets, despite speculation that it might be curtailed or subjected to modest charges.

The department said that on the basis of projected demographic change, including increases in the population as a whole and the elderly cohort in particular, the scheme was not sustainable without additional funding, or at a minimum the removal of the freeze on funding, changes to eligibility or a reduction in service.

The number of people benefiting from free travel was growing by about 4 per cent per annum, it said.

“The current freeze on funding means that new services are unable to access the scheme; there are existing anomalies in the scheme which need to be addressed and the nature of public transport is also changing.’’

The scheme is available to people living in the State aged 66 years or over and to carers and recipients under 66 years receiving certain disability payments.

 

Issues considered

The department noted all the issues were being considered by an interdepartmental working group made up of representatives of the Department of Social Protection, the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport, the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform and the National Transport Authority.