Dáil Éireann - Volume 495 - 13 October, 1998
Written Answers. - Free Schemes.
Ms O'Sullivan Ms O'Sullivan
337. Ms O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs the plans, if any, he has to change the title of free travel to concession travel for senior citizens and other qualifying persons; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19222/98]
Ms O'Sullivan Ms O'Sullivan
338. Ms O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs if he will remove the time restrictions on holders of free travel passes in Dublin, Cork and Limerick, to bring them in line with the rest of the country to allow them to use public transport in an unrestricted way; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19223/98]
Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs (Mr. D. Ahern) Dermot Ahern
Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs (Mr. D. Ahern): It is proposed to take Questions Nos. 337 and 338 together.
The free travel scheme operated by my Department is available to all people living in the State aged 66 years, or over, as well as certain people with disabilities under that age who are in receipt of certain social welfare types payments. The scheme provides free travel, primarily at off-peak periods, to eligible people on the main public and private transport services. At the end of last January, free travel passes had been issued in respect of around 505,000 people at an estimated annual cost of £33 million.
There are no plans to change the title of the free travel scheme to concession travel. Travel under this scheme is free and therefore the title free travel is considered to be the most appropriate description of the scheme.
The operation of the free travel scheme is based on the use of spare capacity and therefore time restrictions have been a feature of this scheme since its inception. They apply generally from 7.00 a.m. to 9.45 a.m. and from 4.30 p.m. to 6.30 p.m. Monday to Friday inclusive, and on Bus Eireann long distance buses from 4.00 p.m. to 7.00 a.m. on Fridays for up to 20 miles out from Dublin, Cork or Limerick. These restrictions have been in operation since the inception of the scheme in 1967.
There are no peak time travel restrictions on DART or on suburban rail services in Dublin and Cork, or on services provided by CIE and private transport operators in other parts of the country. Time restrictions are only in place on city and provincial bus routes because the transport companies concerned are under severe pressure from commuters travelling to or from work or school in  the morning and evening. They do not, however, apply in the case of people with mental disabilities, those attending long-term rehabilitation courses and certain other people with disabilities.
The extension of unrestricted access to urban services at peak time on a more widespread basis would cause capacity problems for CIE and would give rise to additional cost unquantifiable at this stage. However, the Department will continue to monitor the situation in consultation with the CIE group to assess the scope for improvements having regard to the capacity and cost constraints.
Dáil Éireann 495 Written Answers. Free Schemes.