Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Questions (435)

John O'Mahony

Question:

435. Deputy John O'Mahony asked the Minister for Social Protection when she anticipates that the review being undertaken by an interdepartmental working group made up of officials from her Department, the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport, the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform and the National Transport Authority will be completed; if the findings of the interdepartmental working group review on freezing of the free travel scheme and the way it is disadvantaging rural areas will be made public; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [31510/13]

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Written answers (Question to Social)

There are currently in excess of 770,000 in receipt of free travel from my Department and when spousal and companion passes are taken into account, there are over 1.1 million customers with some free travel eligibility. Expenditure on this scheme was frozen at 2010 levels by the previous Government. Expenditure for the free travel scheme in 2013 is set at €77 million.

Given the increasing number of recipients and the funding pressures, the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport and I established a working group with representatives from the two Departments, as well as the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform and the National Transport Authority to review the free travel scheme. The purpose of this review is to examine and report on the current operation and future development of the free travel scheme including how the scheme is funded. The work of this group is expected to conclude before the autumn, and the findings and publication of the report will then be considered.