THE NATIONAL TRANSPORT Authority has been called on to rectify issues with some Irish Rail ticket prices.
Rail Users Ireland (RUI) said today that there were “serious errors” in the fare changes which came into force in December 2013.
It alleged that the changes made by the National Transport Authority (NTA) were incomplete and as a result “created a series of serious inconsistencies”, resulting in fare increases for many journeys.
According to RUI, it is now cheaper to travel from Rush & Lusk to Grand Canal Dock than the shorter distance from Rush & Lusk to Dublin Pearse.
RUI spokesman Mark Gleeson said: “The only way to resolve the inconsistencies in Irish Rail’s fare structure is to start with a clean sheet, ensuring that there is a direct relationship between the distance traveled and the fare charged”.
RUI is calling on the National Transport Authority to resolve this issue within one week, with a comprehensive revision undertaken to eliminate all inconsistencies by the end of 2014.
It also asks that all future changes to fare zone and bands be subject to public consultation.
Under Irish Rail’s bye laws (SI 109 1984, section 6) it is deemed to be an act of fare evasion if a passenger purchases a ticket, but leaves the train at an earlier station where the fare is greater.
It wants Irish Rail to issue a formal statement that it will not prosecute passengers under this bye law.
In addition, it wants both Irish Rail and Leap Card to retrospectively refund all passengers where they were overcharged as a result of this issue.
The National Transport Authority (NTA) said that it inherited a fare and zone structure which was not distance-based, and “which contained major structural inequalities for users”.
We are moving towards a fairer structure of distance-based zonal fares, but are doing this over a number of years, in order to phase-in any significant fare increases for those users who have historically benefitted disproportionately compared to other rail users from the anomalies.
Over the last two years the NTA has been introducing improvements across Iarnród Éireann’s Short Hop Zone fares structure, including removing numerous fares anomalies and better alignment of zone fares to distance travelled.
In this recent determination, the NTA reclassified a number of origin-destination pairings.
However, it pointed out that rectifying historical anomalies “can result in some fares going up and some going down”.
It said it has tried to avoid making changes that will result in large increases in order to mitigate the impact on passengers, or decreases for significant numbers of passengers in order to protect revenues to ensure the amount of services available can be maintained.
It has limited the changes to pairings that have demonstrated very low levels of patronage. The NTA will continue to remove fare anomalies on a phased basis over the coming years.
Naturally, as we began to make changes to implement a more distance-based fare scheme and then left particular origin-destination pairings for the reasons above, then has led, in the interim, to some station-to-station pockets that don’t follow the natural progression of the zones. In no case has the Authority raised fares beyond the distance-based formula.
These anomalies exist “because we could not move in one step to rectify everything – without either putting undue hardship on users, or damaging the revenue base”, said the NTA.
It is looking at that small number of cases where a longer trip by single ticket costs less than a shorter journey along the same corridor, with a view to possibly bringing forward sooner the required fare reclassification.
NTA said that if you examine the fares from Rush & Lusk prior to it making any amendment:
rail customers from that station were only travelling four stations before they were paying the highest zonal fare, ie the fare from Rush & Lusk to all stations south of Portmarnock were at Zone E, the highest fare. Comparatively, if you look at Greystones, however, a customer from that station starts paying the Zone E fare north of Landsdowne Road.
It gave the example of the Rush & Lusk to Pearse Zone E single adult fare of €5.70, which has not changed zone in 2014 but received the general fares increase.
In the implementation of the distance-based zonal structure, this trip needs to change zone, which will result in a fare reduction for customers. However the NTA recommended that this reduction not take place at this time due to the impact on Iarnród Éireann fare revenue.