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Unread 30-06-2014, 08:06   #1
Mark Gleeson
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Default [article] Transport firms issue threat over free travel scheme

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Transport providers have threatened to withdraw from the free travel scheme on the basis that it is not covering the cost of offering the service.
A Government working group is currently reviewing the future of the €77 million- a-year scheme, which benefits more than 780,000 people every year.

http://www.irishtimes.com/news/polit...heme-1.1849661
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Unread 30-06-2014, 08:11   #2
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Irish Rail receives 14 million per year through the scheme

2013 revenue from passenger operations 166 million

DSP is paying 8.4%

10 year old data indicates 12.5% usage, likely to be closer to 15% by now
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Unread 30-06-2014, 09:13   #3
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I personally think that re-instating some peak-time usage limits would be reasonable. It would be fairly simple to implement a mechanism where proof of a medical appointment could be used as a means to excuse any peak-time restrictions. Removing the peak-time limits was utter ludicrous auction politics and have resulted in a system that is completely out-of-kilter with the rest of Europe.

I'm not proposing that the benefit should be done away but it is pretty silly that a quarter of the population can walk up to Heuston station and get on the 5PM train to Cork on a Friday evening for nothing. Even if there was a 10 euro surcharge for peak trains, that might make people who in general have flexible timetables choose a different time or different day to travel.

Something has to change where it has to got to a point where services are being withdrawn. In areas like north Longford where there example of Whartons service was used in the article, there is a very low base of working people and the vast majority of those people need to have a car due to the geographically distributed nature of work in the area. So basically, the only people using public transport services are pass holders.

Last edited by James Howard : 30-06-2014 at 09:21.
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Unread 30-06-2014, 10:19   #4
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As a travel pass holder let me declare an interest.

I agree that the extension of the scheme to peak travel times was rotten vote-buying. But reversing the change won't necessarily give any significant financial savings, and there may be an enforcement cost. If I change from the 5pm to the 3pm to Cork, the company may in theory sell an extra seat on the 5pm. But they can sell seats anyhow even if there is only standing room and if the fare-paying passenger would have travelled on a different train due to the expectation of overcrowding on the 5pm the net result will be much the same in financial terms.

The unambiguous winners would be regular commuters to and from work, whose peak-time trains would be less overcrowded. This is a good argument for re-instating the restriction on peak-time use of travel passes. But the powers that be really don't care about that: they just want to save money, and their lack of a business brain means that they will screw up yet again.
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Unread 30-06-2014, 19:10   #5
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But reversing the change won't necessarily give any significant financial savings, and there may be an enforcement cost. If I change from the 5pm to the 3pm to Cork, the company may in theory sell an extra seat on the 5pm. But they can sell seats anyhow even if there is only standing room and if the fare-paying passenger would have travelled on a different train due to the expectation of overcrowding on the 5pm the net result will be much the same in financial terms.
Peak usage is about capacity. Let us say you need 10 buses at peak time and 6 off-peak, then those 4 extra buses are the most expensive to operate - you need to buy the extra buses and employ the extra drivers. If you can shift people out of peak into off peak, you might be able to operate with 8 buses and fewer drivers. Those savings can be better put to other uses.
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Unread 01-07-2014, 08:29   #6
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Or in Irish Rail's case, where they have 14 cars worth of passengers squeezed into 10, they might actually be able to seat their higher revenue passengers. Hence there won't be any actual savings except that the 10 cars worth of paying passengers might be willing to pay a few quid extra because the service is better.

Either way, shifting the lower-revenue passengers into off-peak traffic would be useful for the quality of service. You could even argue the case for a super-peak on Friday afternoons where commuter pass holders might be required to pay a supplement (or possibly receive a discount on their pass to avoid) to travel on the extremely busy 5PM departures if there were another suitable service.
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Unread 01-07-2014, 11:23   #7
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I shall declare my position as having a disabled wife who has a pass covering us both.

Since being granted the pass 18 months ago it has been used a grand total of 3 times and all of those times were to attend hospital appointments in Dublin which by their nature required use of peak time trains. If the hospital tells you to be there by 9am you really have no choice.

It would unfair to penalise those who use their passes in the manner they were intended to be used.

For the record I frequently travel on my own and do pay my own fare.
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Unread 01-07-2014, 11:40   #8
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Of course it goes without saying that people should not be paying to attend hospital appointments that involve travelling across half the country because the services aren't available locally. However, as such journeys are necessary to suit efficiencies within the HSE, perhaps the HSE should be paying rather than Irish Rail. I suspect that the vast majority of free travel scheme users are actually using their passes in this way.

Similarly if somebody has a condition that makes it difficult to drive and they have been granted a pass to help their mobility, they should have blanket use of the trains. Where some effort should be made to move journeys off-peak is where people are going up to Dublin to do a bit of shopping or for other recreational reasons.

These journeys are of course socially useful and can be essential to an elderly person's mental well being. But these purposes can be met equally well by the person travelling off-peak and everyone is a winner. It might even end up creating a virtuous circle whereby Irish Rail would gain the financial resources to run later services and so enable people travelling on free-travel passes to stay in Dublin for an evening meal thus driving further use of public transport.
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Unread 01-07-2014, 13:33   #9
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Nothing much to disagree with in the last few posts. Just to follow up on Colm Moore's point, it would seem easier to juggle the allocation of buses to times and routes than to re-configure the rail timetable significantly. Cost savings might be made by bus operators, but not to the same extent by rail operators.
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Unread 01-07-2014, 19:12   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by James Howard View Post
Of course it goes without saying that people should not be paying to attend hospital appointments that involve travelling across half the country because the services aren't available locally. However, as such journeys are necessary to suit efficiencies within the HSE, perhaps the HSE should be paying rather than Irish Rail. I suspect that the vast majority of free travel scheme users are actually using their passes in this way.

Similarly if somebody has a condition that makes it difficult to drive and they have been granted a pass to help their mobility, they should have blanket use of the trains. Where some effort should be made to move journeys off-peak is where people are going up to Dublin to do a bit of shopping or for other recreational reasons.

These journeys are of course socially useful and can be essential to an elderly person's mental well being. But these purposes can be met equally well by the person travelling off-peak and everyone is a winner. It might even end up creating a virtuous circle whereby Irish Rail would gain the financial resources to run later services and so enable people travelling on free-travel passes to stay in Dublin for an evening meal thus driving further use of public transport.
I don't think I could have put it better myself.

Very well put James.
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Unread 01-07-2014, 19:27   #11
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Quote:
I agree that the extension of the scheme to peak travel times was rotten vote-buying.
the exact same is being down now by not changing it.

Agree with most posts and really think a Friday afternoon ban on departures between 4 and 6 is needed.
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Unread 02-07-2014, 13:03   #12
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Is there any information on the rate at which the old-style travel passes are being replaced by the new smart(er) cards?

The old ones are ridiculously open to fraudulent use, especially those without photo ID. Is there a photo on all the new cards, or is it still regarded as too great a hardship for anyone outside 4 or 5 major urban areas to have a photo taken? I would hope that the demise of the old-style passes will produce significant savings.
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Unread 02-07-2014, 13:16   #13
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The new ones have a photo on them. You have to appear at a designated DSP office to be photographed.

The new card is a combined public services card/travel pass.

No idea on how fast they are being replaced as I have not had any communication from the DSP regarding our pass yet.
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Unread 06-07-2014, 23:08   #14
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Is there any information on the rate at which the old-style travel passes are being replaced by the new smart(er) cards?
200 per week per DSP Local Office. It will take several years.
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Unread 07-07-2014, 09:31   #15
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200 per week per DSP Local Office. It will take several years.
And a lot of Local Offices won't have that many customers.

With 1 for the whole of Cork City and 1 per 100,000 in Dublin, those offices will be considerably oversubscribed when a lot of rural offices are underused.
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Unread 07-07-2014, 10:07   #16
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The way things are going with the scheme it wouldn't surprise me if the CIE group set the rules themselves and basically refuse to accept anything other than the new pass from say 1st March 2015

The CIE group has no contract with the DSP so the conditions under which the scheme works are not enshrined in any legal document.

Its in everyone's interests as for Dublin area the pass can be used as tag on/off on Irish Rail thus no need to queue for tickets. Bus Eireann in time will have the hardware on every bus to scan the cards also
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Unread 07-07-2014, 11:52   #17
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The rollout of new cards seems to be a bit slow, and even shambolic. I presume that for people in Dublin and a few other cities where they already had photo ID as part of the old travel pass, that uploading photos for the new cards was relatively simple.

A question: have they been able to use passport or driving licence photos for uploading onto new cards? If so, this would make the issuing of new cards to rural residents less of a logistical nightmare. I am surprised that we haven't heard whingeing from local politicians about the "hardship" of having to go to a DSP office to get your mugshot taken.
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Unread 07-07-2014, 12:33   #18
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If you have a bio-metric passport they have your image and that is used on the card
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Unread 07-07-2014, 13:46   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Colm Moore View Post
200 per week per DSP Local Office. It will take several years.
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And a lot of Local Offices won't have that many customers.

With 1 for the whole of Cork City and 1 per 100,000 in Dublin, those offices will be considerably oversubscribed when a lot of rural offices are underused.
It is not working that way at all.

My local SWO is a small rural one and does not issue cards. Anyone getting called for a new card has to travel to the designated SWO which is some 25 miles away.
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Unread 13-07-2014, 07:34   #20
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And a lot of Local Offices won't have that many customers.
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Originally Posted by haddockman View Post
My local SWO is a small rural one and does not issue cards. Anyone getting called for a new card has to travel to the designated SWO which is some 25 miles away.
"Local Office" is a specific title, above some other offices.

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Bus Eireann in time will have the hardware on every bus to scan the cards also
I understand a big chunk of the BÉ fleet are already equipped.
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Last edited by Colm Moore : 13-07-2014 at 07:36.
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