Irish Rail is being urged to alter its prices on some commuter lines in Co Cork following an investigation of its fares.
Green Party councillor Alan O’Connor won unanimous support from colleagues after outlining his research at a meeting of Cork County Council.
Firstly, he pointed out that an online return fare from Carrigtwohill to Cork is only 27% higher than one from Glounthaune, and 85%/87% from the vending machines and Leap cards, respectively.
“I think it’s reasonable to ask at least that prices be reduced in proportion, compared with online fares,” said Mr O’Connor.
The current Leap Card prices for an adult/child/schoolchild single journey between Carrigtwohill and Cork (regarded as a zone C station on the Cork suburban line) are €4.55/€2.25/€0.80 respectively.
The current prices for those journeys from a zone B station such as Glounthaune are €2.43/€1.20/€0.80. Cobh, Rushbrooke, Carrigaloe, and Fota are also designated as Zone C with respect to Cork.
“A Leap-fare return journey to Cork therefore costs €9.10 for an adult from Carrigtwohill (or any other zone C station), whereas it costs €4.86 from a zone B station such as Glounthaune.
"The price difference is even greater if one buys one’s ticket from a vending machine which is €10.15 against €5.50 return,” explained Mr O’Connor.
“Taking Carrigtwohill as a specific example, the journey time between Carrigtwohill and Cork on the train is approximately 16 minutes, whereas from Glounthaune to Cork it is 11 minutes.
Mr O’Connor pointed out that travel times between Cork and the stations at Fota, Carrigaloe, Rushbrooke, and Cobh range between 14 and 24 minutes.
There is less of a difference between zones B and C with regard to online fares: An adult single to Cork from Carrigtwohill and Glounthaune costs €3.50 and €2.75, respectively.
The return journey from zone C to Cork is therefore 27% more expensive if tickets are purchased online. An adult monthly ticket from zone C stations is 36% more expensive than one from zone B (€121.70 vs €89.25).
“There is another consideration specific to Carrigtwohill and Glounthaune.
"The current pricing strategy makes it financially attractive for those who might otherwise use Carrigtwohill railway station to drive to Glounthaune, and to travel by train from there to Cork. The car park at Glounthaune station is invariably overflowing, and the one in Carrigtwohill greatly under-used,” said Mr O’Connor.
He added that while fares would ideally be reduced across all zones and services in order to incentivise train travel, he said he felt it was reasonable to request that consideration be made, during the next fare determination period, to at least a reduction in fares between all zone C stations and Cork.
“I suggest that this reduction may be made in order that the cost differential between zone B and zone C stations, across all fares, be proportional to the difference between those zones in online fares.”