Wednesday, 16 February 2005

Ceisteanna (136)

Eoin Ryan

Ceist:

178 Mr. Eoin Ryan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if he has put forward a proposal to extend the free travel pass Europe-wide; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5196/05]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Family)

The free travel scheme is available to all people living in the State aged 66 years, or over. It is also available to carers and to people with disabilities who are in receipt of certain social welfare payments. It applies to travel within the State and cross-Border journeys between here and Northern Ireland.

A variety of travel concessions are granted by most EU member states to retired pensioners. The scope of these concession schemes and the reductions available vary widely from country to country.

In 1997 a report, Towards a Senior Euro Pass, was commissioned by the Social Affairs Directorate of the European Commission. This report recommended that EU states should move towards having a senior euro pass card which would entitle older people to concessions on various services, including travel, cultural and social activities.

My Department submitted observations on the report's recommendations at the time, as did other Departments and statutory and non-statutory bodies. The introduction of such an initiative would have to be developed at EU level.

However, the Government is committed to the introduction of a system of all-Ireland free travel for pensioners and other eligible category of social welfare customers, to enable pass holders to make onward journeys free of charge in each jurisdiction. Discussions are ongoing with the relevant authorities to progress this issue.