As Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, I have responsibility for policy and overall funding in relation to public transport. The National Transport Authority, or NTA, has statutory responsibility for the regulation of fares for public passenger transport services with the transport operators. The funding of public service obligation, or PSO, services comprises fares paid by passengers and subvention payments from the Exchequer. The main purpose of the subvention payment is to meet the gap between the income from fares and the cost of operating services. In 2019 alone, the Exchequer has allocated just over €300 million in subvention for PSO transport services and rural transport local link services. Along with that subvention, we are investing almost €480 million this year in public transport and active travel infrastructure.
The Deputy suggests abolishing fares for children up to the age of 18 years. One of the factors to take into account is that the full amount collected from fares is approximately €625 million annually, of which €27.3 million relates to fares for children aged five to 18 years, inclusive, and €49.6 million relates to student fares, some of whom would be expected to be 18 years or younger. I am advised by the Department of Education and Skills that receipts from school transport charges in 2018 amounted to some €15.9 million, or approximately 8% of the total cost of the scheme provided by Bus Éireann on behalf of the Department. If free travel were provided, this would be the additional cost on the scheme. As such, the rough cost to taxpayers of the Deputy's proposal, including the school transport scheme, would be more than €43 million every year over and above the huge amounts already given to provide for the public transport PSO subvention and capital investment. The Deputy should realise that €43 million is only what it would cost the taxpayer to give a free fares windfall to existing passengers in the under-18 age bracket. It would not pay for one extra bus or one extra passenger journey as it does not factor in the costs of catering for increased passenger travel demand.
I can see that the Deputy is trying to find a way to move more people onto public transport. I applaud any idea of this sort coming forward although I would have a reluctance to accept some ideas on grounds of cost. This idea is neither new nor barmy. It is helpful and adds to the debate. I am sure the Deputy shares my ambition to move more people to public transport. I am working to have a public transport system that provides a sustainable, viable, attractive and economic mode of travel for more people for more of their journeys.
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We all know that our country is facing challenges on climate commitments and on the congestion that this Government is determined to address. That is why we are expanding our public transport fleet so that there are more buses, more trains and longer trams to carry more passengers. We are developing long-term solutions through Metro and the DART expansion. We are enhancing cycle networks and making cities easier to navigate for pedestrians. We are supporting higher frequency bus services in rural areas. We are investing in well-planned, integrated infrastructure and service improvements in all the main cities. That is why we are investing €8.6 billion in sustainable travel under the national development plan. We know our public transport system and active travel networks need to be better. We know they need to better support sustainable mobility by linking more people to more places for more of their journeys. We know it and we are doing it. We are promoting a shift to public transport. We are enabling a shift to cleaner, greener alternatives. Our ambitions are high and the costs are hefty but the House will agree that the costs of not doing it are not acceptable. We cannot let our society drive itself unthinkingly into more congestion, more pollution and more harmful emissions.
Enabling and promoting a shift to more sustainable forms of transport for a higher number of journeys will help reduce Ireland's climate change emissions. Part of this work is to encourage and develop sustainable transport habits among different groups within our population, including the young people. The NTA is conscious of this in exercising its statutory responsibility in relation to fares. Each year, the NTA conducts a thorough examination of public transport fares and publishes on its website the details of this work, including information regarding all fare changes it decides upon. The Deputy will know that the NTA sets the fares for children on PSO services at a level considerably lower than the standard passenger fares. The NTA also runs some targeted promotion initiatives from time to time to stimulate fresh interest in public transport use, including its Kids Go Free promotion offer in July delivered through the Leap card integrated ticket for public transport.
Fares from passengers are one element of meeting the costs of providing and running the public transport system while the State and the taxpayer are the main funders. Any proposal to reduce or abolish passenger fares for a cohort of customers would have to be funded through either an increase in fares for other passenger cohorts or by an increase in PSO funding from the taxpayer via the Exchequer.