The number of people availing of free travel has dramatically risen along with the ageing population over the past decade.
More than 900,000 Irish people, mainly pensioners, availed of free travel last year which is an increase of 42% since 2007 when 637,312 people had a free travel pass.
Ireland’s population has been getting steadily older since the 1980s, with over-65s seeing the largest increase in population in the last census, so the number eligible for free travel is expected to continue to rise.
Figures released to Fianna Fáil TD Robert Troy in a written question reveals that there are 908,675 customers in receipt of free travel.
Regina Doherty, Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection, said the free travel scheme is available to all people aged over 66 living permanently in the state, along with other qualifying applicants.
“The free travel scheme permits free travel on most CIE public transport services, Luas and a range of services offered by some 80 private operators in various parts of the country for those eligible under the scheme,” she said.
The free travel scheme was introduced by the late Charlie Haughey in 1967. It is available to all people after their 66th birthday if they are living permanently in the State.
Others who may apply include those in receipt of the disability allowance, blind pension, carer’s allowance, and invalidity pension.
Free travel is available on all state bus and rail services and Dublin’s Luas along with a number of private operators.
Last year, the State paid out more than €77m on the scheme which allows passholders to travel the country free of charge
That figure increased 40% from the €55m spent on the scheme in 2005.
In 2017, more than €61m went to CIE to pay for train and bus routes operated by the State body.
Just under €4m was spent on journeys in the capital on the Luas, while private operators were paid just under €9m.
The All-Ireland free travel scheme for senior citizens which allows seamless all- island travel began more than a decade ago in 2007.
It allows those aged 66 and over in the Republic to travel free of charge on all bus and rail services in the North while senior citizens from the North also travel free on bus, rail and other services participating in the free travel scheme south of the border.
Last year, just under €98,000 was spent on the cross-border travel scheme.
The Free Travel Scheme was introduced more than 50 years ago to allow old-age pensioners and blind pensioners to take advantage of spare capacity on public transport at off-peak times.
It was later broadened out to allow pass holders to travel at any time they wished.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved