Deputy Imelda Munster.
Sinn Féin TD Imelda Munster says the only way to tackle the intransigence of the National Transport Authority (NTA) in dealing with what she calls "rip-off rail fares" for commuters in Bettystown, Laytown and Drogheda is via an instruction from government.
Deputy Munster was speaking after an exchange at the Oireachtas Transport Committee yesterday where the NTA made it clear that its priorities are service improvement and expansion rather than much-needed fare reductions.
“I’ve been calling on the NTA and the government to extend the short-hop zone for six years now” Deputy Munster said.
“During the recent public consultation on the Draft Transport Strategy for the Greater Dublin area almost 120 submissions were made on the inequitable rail fare structure in East Meath and Drogheda. People have been raising this issue for years and they are fed up with it at this stage.
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“For example, a monthly rail ticket to Dublin from Laytown costs €237. A monthly ticket from Balbriggan to Dublin costs €154.
“The government says that it wants fewer cars on the roads and more people using public transport. This is a no brainer in that regard. If prices were more affordable people would use the train which would be good for traffic congestion and the environment.
“The NTA doesn’t collect data on the impact of these charges on people or their impact on the environment. For example, we don’t know how many people are driving every day from towns in East Meath or Louth to Balbriggan to avail of cheaper rail fares.
“This issue could be resolved with the stroke of a pen by government. The NTA acknowledges this. Their policies are directed by government. The government simply has to give instructions to the NTA to extend the short hop zone to include Bettystown, Laytown and on to Drogheda.
“Just this week there was a 20% reduction in general fares and a 50% reduction in Student Leap Card and Youth Travel Card fares – the government provided the funding for this to the NTA to offset fares revenue forgone. There is no reason that they can’t do the same for East Meath and Drogheda to include them in the short hop zone.
“With promise of extension of the DART there’s no reason that the government couldn’t extend the zone beyond East Meath and on to Drogheda too, given the sheer volume of people who commute to Dublin on a daily basis.
“The population of Drogheda and other towns like Laytown, Bettystown, Mornington and Donacarney have exploded in recent decades, and its time transport policy reflected these changes.
“As a basic principle, public transport should be affordable and accessible. It’s clear that the NTA has no interest in reducing fares. It’s also clear that the government has the power to change this, and is choosing not to. It makes no economic or environmental sense, and is unfair for tens of thousands of commuters in East Meath and Drogheda.”