Reduction in public transport fares would signal long term thinking

06 October 2021
  • Investment of €87 million needed for free public transport for students and children
  • Expansion of City Bikes scheme badly needed
  • Time to increase list of commuter stations and towns

Labour’s transport spokesperson Duncan Smith said the failure of government to present a timeline for the reduction of transport fares is a further symptom of short-term thinking. Presenting Labour’s Alternative Budget proposals for transport, Deputy Smith said an investment in free public transport for children and students is needed to encourage more people onto public transport. In recognition of the increased population opting to move into the countryside due to the pandemic, Labour is proposing an expansion of the commuter stations and towns. All workers and families must benefit from a Just Transition to a carbon neutral world.

Deputy Smith said:

“Ensuring decent and reliable public transport has to be at the heart of any serious attempt to reduce carbon emissions. In Labour’s Alternative Budget 2022, we have outlined a vision for public transport that not only makes environmental sense, but economic sense, that would benefit ordinary people and families. If we’re serious about lowering our emissions and meeting our climate targets, the NDP plan should have included measures to encourage workers, school goers and the general population onto public transport.

“Providing public transport free of charge to our children and students would represent a step-change in our approach as a nation. While developing cycling and walking infrastructure is welcome, for many children and students going to school, these options simply aren’t available to them. An investment of €87 million would see children and students travelling free of charge on public transport, which would also have a knock on effect for parents and families. Rather than opting to take the family car, it should be more cheaper and easier for families to travel by bus, train, luas, dart, on their daily journeys.

“We need to have a climate lens on everything that we do. We know that due to the student accommodation crisis, more and more students that would have moved to the city are commuting instead with many opting to drive for convenience. We need to challenge this behaviour and build a lifelong relationship between our young people and public transport. Providing free public transport to all students would undoubtedly see our young people opt for the train over the Golf.

“The changes to the world of work due to the pandemic must also be recognised in our vision for public transport. Many people have opted to return to the countryside, moving out of traditional commuter towns. In recognition of this, Labour’s Alternative Budget proposals provide for a €1.1 million investment to cap Leap fares in regional cities for commuters, as well as expanding the list of commuter towns and stations. We need to encourage people commuting from places like Tullamore, Thurles, Ballybrophy and Kildare town to take the train or the bus, expanding the list of commuter towns and stations would go a long way to help save these people money that could be better used on a family holiday.  

“Since 2016 there hasn’t been any expansion of the hugely successful City Bikes scheme pioneered by Labour but we want to see this rolled out in Waterford and five more regional towns, along with a serious enlargement of the system in Dublin, Cork, Limerick and Galway. There should also be a Bike to School scheme to support parents purchasing bicycles for their children, and a grant system put in place for cargo bikes.

“Real change demands real commitment. That’s why it was so disappointing that to see completion dates for flagship public transport projects like Metrolink removed from the NDP. There will be no change if there are no commitments. Metrolink was due to be the biggest of sustainable mobility projects, now, thanks to short-term thinking, this sustainable commuter option is unlikely to come to fruition.

“Changing how we think of and charge for public transport requires political ambition and vision, but it is one indisputable way that the State could step up to the mark in reducing our carbon emissions. The NDP should have included costings and timelines on ways to increase revenue for services without pricing commuters out, including flexible pricing measures to encourage off peak travel. We know that investment in public transport has a direct impact on creating jobs and bettering our economy which can also lead to better communities, better livelihoods. As more people return to the office, we need to promote the use of public transport. Making fares more affordable would help to reduce congestion in our cities, shorten people’s commuting time and improve our climate outcomes, not just pay lip service to it.”

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