Withdrawal of bus passes would have consequences

Eighty-four-year-old pensioner and widow, Anne Spearman (Letters, Nov 14) makes an impassioned plea to Finance Minister Michael Noonan “to look elsewhere to make his cuts” rather than do away with pensioners’ bus passes.

Even if his proposal were restricted to withdrawing them from better-off pensioners, it all depends on what is meant by being “better-off” and would involve means-testing, which is generally accepted as being inefficient and costly, so the only way to save money would be to penalise the less well-off as well.

The result would be that these unfortunate people who have spent their lives contributing to the country will become increasingly home-bound and isolated — their health will deteriorate and they will become an even more costly burden on the state’s social and health services.

Bus passes are in essence a subsidy for public transport. On off-peak services, most passengers are using them so, without them, these would not be profitable and would be withdrawn. Because of fixed overheads, it would no longer be profitable to run buses only at peak times unless fares were raised to such a high level that they would not be attractive to car owners, meaning traffic gridlock unless vast sums were spent on road improvement.

In all, Mr Noonan’s suggestion should be rejected as more an appeal to the unconscious prejudices of potential voters than a recipe for real savings.

Martin D Stern



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