Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Questions (401)

Clare Daly

Question:

401. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Social Protection her plans to restrict the free travel scheme in terms of the services and times that citizens can avail of same; and her plans to introduce a charge for this entitlement. [22531/14]

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Written answers (Question to Social)

The current free travel scheme provides free travel on the main public and private transport services for those eligible under the scheme. These include road, rail and ferry services provided by companies such as Bus Átha Cliath, Bus Éireann and Iarnród Éireann, as well as Luas and services provided by almost 90 private transport operators. There are currently over 780,000 people in receipt of free travel.

Funding for the free travel scheme was capped by the previous Government as outlined in the National Recovery Plan 2011-2014. During this period it has not been possible to accept additional routes or providers within the scheme.

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. The work of this group is expected to conclude shortly.

I appreciate the importance of the scheme and the value it provides to the hundreds of thousands of mostly elderly people who use it.