Removing free travel pass ‘not on the agenda’

Minister to review operation of the system by private operators

Hildegarde Naughton: ‘What is happening now is a review of the situation as the programme comes to a close.’ Photograph: Joe O’Shaughnessy

Hildegarde Naughton: ‘What is happening now is a review of the situation as the programme comes to a close.’ Photograph: Joe O’Shaughnessy

 

Fine Gael Senator Hildegarde Naughton has said Minister for Transport Leo Varadkar should address the Seanad to clear up any confusion about the future of free travel for pensioners.

Speaking in the Seanad yesterday, she said she noted Mr Varadkar’s comments that removal of the benefit was not on the Government’s agenda. The review of the system, she said, was not due to any wish on the Government’s part to withdraw the pass but rather that the Minister wished to review its operation by private operators and to avoid fraud.

Ms Naughton said the scheme permitted free travel on most CIÉ public transport services, the Luas and a range of services offered by more than 90 private operators.

Ms Naughton said that under the programme for recovery, increases in subventions for private operators were frozen and no new operators were allowed join the scheme. “Given the state of finances at the time, this decision was warranted,’’ she added. “What is happening now is a review of the situation as the programme comes to a close.’’

Terry Brennan (FG) said the Government very much valued the free travel scheme, adding that the review was about modernisation and not taking it away. “We are all aware that issues relating to the misuse of passes, fraud and ID must be addressed.’’