A government working group is examining the free travel scheme for those over 66 and is under pressure from the EU Commission to introduce further restrictions.
Despite public assurances, the government has failed to adequately protect the scheme.
· It has frozen the public subvention to fund the scheme for the past five years.
· It has also allowed fourteen private companies to withdraw from the scheme. This has put the state run Bus Eireann under greater competitive pressure and so they are now lobbying to bring about further changes that would restrict access by those aged over 66.
· It has also raised the official retirement age to 66 rather than 65.
People Before Profit favours an extension of free transport – not a reduction.
Brid Smith, a People Before Profit spokesperson said, ‘In an age when we are threatened with climate change, we need more people to be using public transport- not less. 18 percent of Ireland’s carbon emission comes from the transport sector and so we need to encourage a greater use of public transport.
‘Any review of the free travel scheme should focus on the private transport companies who have withdrawn from the scheme.
‘They are repeatedly use a discourse about ‘a level playing field’. Well, let’s give them one on this issue. They should be forced to re-join the scheme and provide free travel for the over 66s –just like public companies.’