Bus, tram and rail fares are to rise by an average of 3.8% from Jan 1st 2006. While CIE and Luas both applied for fare increases up to 7.5%, Minister for Transport Martin Cullen said that he had decided the 3.8% increase was more appropriate. May we suggest, minister, that what would be even more
appropriate would be a fare decrease, with the state picking up the tab for any shortfall in operating costs.
We can’t help but feel a sense of deja-vu; Haven’t we been here before? Of course, with the rising cost of fuel, wages and other operating costs, it is understandable that the companies responsible for public transport in Ireland would not want to go bankrupt but the Government’s answer of yet another fare increase flies in the face of all logic. With CIE still getting the lowest state subvention of any public transport company in the western world (around 26%) isn’t it about time we rethink how public transport is financed in this country? With the massive road building announced as part of the recently announced Transport 21 plan, isn’t this just more evidence of the government’s real transport policy, getting everybody behind the wheel of
their own car.
There is still no evidence of this minister understanding the importance of public transport to the economic health of the country. By treating users of public transport with another fare increase, while rewarding motorists with even more new roads, he sends all the wrong signals to Irish commuters, and once again says loud and clear: “buses are for poor people”.
We’ve said it before and we’ll keep saying it, what needs to happen is an increase in state subvention and a decrease in fares. BUSRAGE proposes that all journeys less then 23 stages be set at a low flat fare, with journey’s longer than that (including Outer Suburban fares) costing a little more. If the fare was set at a single coin amount (i.e. €1) then that would have the additional benefit of speeding up boarding times, which would shorten journey times. Shorter journeys would encourage more people out of their cars onto the buses, thus decreasing journey times even more, due to less traffic congestion. There could even be lower fares available to users of prepaid tickets and ticket machines could be installed near bus stops.
Think we’re mad to suggest this? Well, it’s been done in London, there you pay single flat fare, and pay a little less if you use a pre paid smart card. It speeds up boarding times and makes a huge difference to journey times. In Dublin you wouldn’t even need to use smart cards, when bits of
cardboard with magnetic strips do the job just fine (as is the case in Paris, Brussels etc..). The public transport systems of Paris, Brussels and even London don’t make any profit, of course, but then that’s not what they’re for, it’s a pity our own transport minister clearly fails to see that.