I thank the Deputy and am taking these questions on behalf of the Minister, Deputy Ryan.
We are acutely aware of the increase in the cost of living in recent months and the Minister recognises the impact that this has had on households across the country. For this reason, he was pleased to be able to introduce a 20% average fare reduction on public service obligation, PSO, public transport services until the end of this year.
This initiative is benefiting the hundreds of thousands of people across the country who use public transport every day. The Minister is delighted to report that passenger numbers are slowly returning to pre-Covid-19 figures. Last week, on average, PSO services carried about 84% of the numbers they carried before the pandemic. In fact, certain markets are reporting passenger levels well above 2019 levels, particularly on some of our Local Link, town and regional city services. All of these individuals are now benefiting from lower fare costs.
The 20% fare reduction comes on top of several other measures that we are progressing to encourage greater public transport patronage. For instance, there is the young adult Leap card, which provides an average 50% fare discount for those aged between 19 and 23 on both PSO and commercial services. There is also the Transport for Ireland, TFI, 90-minute fares scheme which means that adults now pay €2, young adults pay €1, and children pay just 65 cent to travel for up to 90 minutes on Dublin Bus, Luas and most DART, commuter rail and Go-Ahead Ireland services in Dublin. In May alone, the number of people who had a child Leap card, a student Leap card, or the new young adult Leap card increased by over 16,000, which is very encouraging.
While fare reductions are to be welcomed, the investment in additional services is also critical. For this reason, the Minister is committed to progressing core projects like BusConnects, Connecting Ireland and DART+, as well as improving existing services across the country.
That being said, public transport fare initiatives have a role to play in combatting the rising cost of transport and in encouraging modal shift. As such, the Minister would like to see the 20% fare reduction continue into 2023. He is acutely aware, however, of the competing pressures across the system and the finite Exchequer resources. The funding implications of all measures must be considered in the round so the Minister will work closely with the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Deputy Michael McGrath, and other Government colleagues, in the context of the 2023 Estimates process to see what we can do with regard to supporting public transport services.