Increase rush hour services and stop messing with Free Travel Scheme
Labour transport spokesperson Sen. Kevin Humphreys has called for an increase in rush hour public transport services, saying we can no longer tolerate silly debates about the free travel scheme, and the latest spat shows that it is time to put the scheme on a statutory footing with clear rules to protect it into the future.
Senator Humphreys said:
“Once again the near annual debate about eligibility and use of the free travel scheme has kicked off, with the latest proposal being to restrict the time period when people can use their travel pass.
“It’s practically silly season with calls for a senior civil servant to step down and the Minister for Transport saying ‘over his dead body’ would this happen.
“What’s missing from this latest row is actual solutions and we haven’t heard anything substantive from the Minister. Let’s stop messing with free travel and put it on a statutory footing to stop proposals like this in the first place.
“And rather than cutting a cherished universal benefit to free up space we should be expanding public transport services during rush hour so more people can use our buses and trains.
“The proposal for a travel ban during rush hour ignores the reality that many elderly people and those with disabilities need to travel to health appointments, carry out chores and go about their day to day business.
“It also flies in the face of anecdotal evidence that most people use the free travel scheme after morning peaks to avoid rush hour crowding. Usage time is now collected through the public services card so it would be welcome if we heard the actual facts that are available.
“If there isn’t enough space on public buses and trains, then that is an argument for more services. It would be better if the Government and civil servants focused on solutions to encourage more people to use public transport rather than talk about restricting access.
“The Free Travel Scheme is an important benefit for those eligible, that recognises the social importance of mobility, and the contributions made by pensioners throughout their lives. Putting the scheme on a statutory footing with clear rules on who is eligible and that it applies at all times would ensure this annual debate is put to bed once and for all.”