Late last year, I refused an application from the CIE operating companies for fare increases averaging almost 10%. Instead, I agreed that increases broadly in line with inflation should be applied with effect from 5 January 2004. As a result, Bus Éireann fares increased on average by 2.75%, Dublin Bus fares, on average, by 3.4% and rail fares by, on average, 3.27%.
In the ten year period prior to 2002, fares on public transport had declined by approximately 20%, in real terms, while personal disposable income had increased significantly. The increases I recently approved are necessary to maintain the financial stability of the CIE group of companies.
Historically, the key deterrent to the greater use of public transport by private car owners has not been the fares levels but the poor quality of infrastructure, old buses and rolling stock and congestion. Major investment in rail infrastructure and rolling stock and in replacement and additional buses has taken place in recent years and will continue over the lifetime of the national development plan, thus improving capacity, reliability and frequency. The investment in an expanding network of quality bus corridors has also enhanced the role of bus services.