I join the Deputy in welcoming the delegation.
As Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, I have responsibility for policy and overall funding relating to public transport. The NTA has the statutory responsibility for the regulation of fares for public passenger transport services with the transport operators. The NTA also has responsibility for integrated ticketing, which it carries out through its Leap card system.
I understand that the "Kids Go Free" offer covers most journeys across the public transport network, including Dublin Bus, Bus Éireann, Go Ahead, Luas, and Irish Rail's DART and commuter rail services. The "Kids Go Free" offer is valid using any child Leap card for ages five to 15 and child Leap card for ages 16 to 18 which is valid up to the holder's 19th birthday, provided the card has 1 cent in credit. The "Kids Go Free" promotion also applies to all Local Link services although a child Leap card is not required for these services.
In the case of Bus Éireann, the initiative covers all routes that are publicly subsidised via the public service obligation, PSO, Exchequer grant. This includes Bus Éireann services in Cork city, Limerick city, Galway city, Waterford city, Sligo and Athlone towns and all Bus Éireann stage carriage services countrywide. Bus Éireann Expressway, which is a commercial service not subsidised by the State, is not included in the promotion.
The Leap card "Kids Go Free" promotion has utilised the Leap card system to enable those under the age of 19 years to avail of millions of free trips since its inception. It has been successful in encouraging children and teenagers to travel on the Transport for Ireland network using a Leap card. This year, the promotion has expanded to run for four weeks, which is twice as long as in previous years. The NTA is, therefore, doubling the fare foregone from this promotion and will have to increase the PSO subsidy to the operators for this lost fare revenue, which it estimates will be €800,000.
I sympathise with what the Deputy has to say. I ask him to spell out in his supplementary question where he wants it to be extended to, because I am not sure we are talking the same language.