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Govt plans fare reductions on commercial buses for 19 to 23-year-olds before return to college

Transport Minister Eamon Ryan said that it was difficult to implement the changes due to different ticketing systems on commercial buses.

Image: Sam Boal/RollingNews.ie

STUDENTS WHO USE private bus companies to travel to college could see their fares cut in half, with the Government planning on cutting the cost before third-level institutions return.

Earlier this year, young people aged between 19 and 23 saw a 50% fare cut on Public Service Obligation (PSO) transport services like Bus Éireann, DART or Luas with the introduction of the Young Adult Card (YAC).

However, currently the card doesn’t grant fare reductions on commercial public transport options, which many students use to commute to college on a daily basis.

In a response to a Parliamentary Question from Sinn Féin’s Ruairi Ó Murchú, Transport Minister Eamon Ryan said that commercial bus operators were an “integral” part of the Irish public transport system, particularly parts of the country that aren’t covered by existing routes.

Ryan said that his Department intends to introduce savings on private operators before colleges reopen in September.

“The YAC was initially launched on PSO services on the 9th of May, and will be broadened to include commercial operators later this year, with the aim to have it in place before the recommencement of third level colleges,” Ryan said.

“This will not only promote modal shift in the transport sector among this age group but should also contribute towards a reduced reliance on private transport with associated benefit of transport emission savings.”

He said that it was technically challenging to introduce the YAC on commercial bus fleets, due to many not using Leap-enabled software.

“An array of various ticketing equipment is in use on fleet used by the commercial operators and needs to be catered for,” Ryan added.

A spokesperson for the National Transport Authority (NTA) said: “We are working with the commercial operators with the intention that the 50% fare can be offered by those operators who choose to do so at the beginning of September.”

In response, the USI Vice President for Campaigns Ross Boyd said that it was a positive development for students and young people.

“It’ll definitely have a big impact for students,” Boyd said, adding that it would be particularly useful for rural students who only have access to public transport through commercial operators.

While he welcomed the plan, he called on the Green Party to act on it’s 2020 election manifesto and implement free public transport for students, alongside widening the eligibility of the YAC to people aged 24.

Boyd also called for additional 24 hour buses, just a day after the Department of Transport confirmed to The Journal that there would be more late night buses on the way this autumn.

It comes just days after the National Transport Authority (NTA) ruled out running late-night Luas services, saying that between 1am and 5am is when maintenance is carried out.

The NTA said that essential maintenance on overhead cable systems, rail works and cleaning “can only be carried out when all trams are out of service”.

Ongoing conversation about late night public transport has stemmed amid a shortage of taxis, with only 29% of registered drivers operating during the busy periods on Friday and Saturday nights.

Readers previously told The Journal of their difficulties getting home from nights out in Dublin city centre, with some saying that they were forced to wait hours for a taxi while others opted to walk home.

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Tadgh McNally

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