‘Free Travel…Needs To Be Controlled’


At Dublin’s Heuston Station

This morning.

Jim Deegan, CEO of Railtours Ireland, told Sarah McInerney, on RTÉ’s Today with Seán O’Rourke show, that the free travel pass system in Ireland is “unsustainable” – arguing that up to 85 per cent of train services are full of people using such passes.

He said:

“Irish Rail are getting very, very little, a blanket payment of about €14million a year to Irish Rail to carry all free travel customers. And, of course, we’re not only talking about people who are over 66. We’re talking about a signifiant number of people of working age, who have free travel for various reasons.”

He added:

“Free travel is a wonderful thing and but it does need to be controlled and it needs to be regulated. We have a totally carte blanche system, total unrestriction [sic]. You can travel any time, as many times as you like for no charge whatsoever and that is a model that is unsustainable.

“And, for example, in Britain, you buy a travel card and you get a percentage of your travel for senior citizens.

“The prescription charge would be a good model, where you would put a nominal charge for every journey. At the moment, Irish Rail get about 70 cents per journey, which is unsustainable – for a company that’s trying to… you know, that’s pilloried by Government for constant losses.”


Éidín Ní Shé tweetz:

Lovely bit of ageism on Today with Sean O’Rourke at a time when older people are experiencing increase levels of isolation and loneliness suggestion we now ‘control’ free travel.

Listen back in full here


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40 thoughts on “‘Free Travel…Needs To Be Controlled’

        1. Harry

          Irish people wouldn’t be keen on the level of control that countries like Luxembourg and Scandinavian countries excercise over their populations in order to facilitate such services.

          1. Otis Blue

            Given the tax paid, I don’t think Irish people are all that thrilled about the poor quality of many of our public services either.

  1. Kevin Doyle

    Collect corporation taxes, close loopholes on the wealthy and we can have free travel for all. Maybe open up some of those closed lines.

    1. A Person

      You have got to be kidding. Free transport didn’t even work in Communist countries. To say that everyone should travel for free in nonsense (despite them taking ownership of every property, every business and forcing people to work in what ever job they were appointed to). Transport costs money – who pays the workers, the infrastructural costs, the maintenance costs?

  2. george

    Are people being turned away from the train? Are they suggesting fewer trains should run or just that they should partially empty?

    What is the basis of “to 85 per cent of train services are full of people using such passes”. And what does that even mean?

    There are no full trains that have only travel pass users on them.

    1. shotopunx

      What he means is there’s less seats from him to sell to fancy tourists through his rail tourism company.

        1. Frank

          Free travel to the pheonix park at the time of the Popes visit was for every body whether you were Catholic or not and you didnt have to be going to the park to use it you could go elsewhere when you got to the drop off points and back from them as well free.

      1. some old queen

        Nothing wrong with a tight assed country boy in skinny jeans- 6 days gym work, very low carb, fat freezed mid range once a month and whatever keeps the ends of the mouth turned upwards.

        Being an Irish country boy is not what it used to be- especially if you are an immigrant.



  3. bisted

    …who was it introduced the free travel…surely, one of those green initiatives like increased recognition and funding for the arts sector…

    1. Lilly

      + 1 I’m happy someone is using public transport. It took me an hour yesterday in rush-hour traffic to get from Earlsfort Terrace to Donnybrook. How can people do that every day without losing their minds.

  4. scottser

    cool. i’m going to roar ‘freeloader’ at randomers on the train – i’ll be right 85% of the time. which is more than i usually am most of the time.

  5. MountainTalk

    +Plus, for the love of Gawd, stop using England as reference / model for things. For systems. It’s built on, evolved from hierarchy. Meaning institutionalized prejudice. Yes, even transport, somehow it is.

  6. Joe Small

    There are 950,000 people in Ireland with free travel passes. Its a generous entitlement but its placing a real strain on our creaking public transport system.

    1. MountainTalk

      “strain” because transport in Ireland is dogsh%t. We don’t even have a train from the airport into town. Probably the only European country without a subway. With respect that we’re only a hundred years old. Old people, and trees on the footpath aren’t the problem.

  7. GiggidyGoo

    “Irish Rail are getting very, very little, a blanket payment of about €14million a year to Irish Rail to carry all free travel customers. ”
    Now cross refer that back to the person (the carer) who was using a free travel card and the various questions regarding the reimbursement that the DSP makes for such trips to Irish Rail. They dont issue payment based on a person’s number of trips. It’s a blanket payment as stated above. The DSP therefore dont need the information on anyones number of trips or destinations as it is not required.

  8. Rob_G

    “Lovely bit of ageism on Today with Sean O’Rourke”

    – no Eidín, broaching a policy that you disagree with is not the same thing as ageism…

    1. delacaravanio

      Hear hear. The policy of giving elderly people free travel is an ageist one. It is positive discrimination, but ageist nonetheless.

  9. Mick

    How about to save money we reduce the wages of all the top management until they come up with proper ways to address the overfilled carriages..
    Maybe the could have double decker trains….and before they say they can’t because of bridges… build higher bridges

    1. Cian

      Would it be worth it?

      You would need to do a cost-benefit analysis to see if it is worth spending millions on upgrading the infrastructure, building higher bridges, the cost of disrupting people during the build, can the stations support twice as many passengers – or do they need to be modified too, the delays at each station as twice as many passengers get on/off, the cost of the new trains, closure of the railways during constriction, higher running costs, etc, etc. to get a benefit of (possibly) 70% more passengers at peak.

      For that money you might be better off building a separate tramline (Luas). Or an new underground line. Or improved cycle infrastructure.

  10. Tea And Brexits

    In fairness, he does have a point, though he needs some data points to back up an assertion that free travel is to blame here.

    I know one old coffin-dodger with a free pass who uses it every weekday to take the train from Louth to Belfast to avail of a cheap breakfast special on offer in the city (3.50 STG).

    I would bet at least 25% of free travel pass bus and train-blockers has a 191 registration SUV with a chunky public sector pension ticking over nicely, paid for by younger workers.

    Old people get everything. Young people need to take up arms. Or wait until they hit 65.

  11. Spaghetti Hoop

    The problem with the retired using public transport for free is that they get up and out so damn early. Restrict it to 11am to 3pm and weekends.

  12. Truth in the News

    Actually the concession needs partial extension to overseas tourists aged
    over 70 who are of Irish ethnicity or who were born in Ireland, there is still
    plenty of business for Mr Deegan’s fancy 5 star Rail Tours, are we back in
    the greed days of post emerging celtic tiger now evolving into a shark

  13. Crayfish

    Blaming the people who need assistance is such a handy scapegoat for their losses. Irish rail is in need of a massive overhaul. The customer service by staff at ticket desks, phone lines and on the ground is a joke. If I ask a question, I feel like I’m a secondary school student talking to an indignant school administrator – my mere existence in inconveniencing them. The train tickets are too expensive in the first place and completely inflexible if you need to shift times. If you book a seat, often they don’t display it, which means you have to ask some, poor, settled passenger to get up. Meanwhile, their competitors, private buses, allow you to swap tickets with ease, drop you to the city centre, or airport at a fraction of the cost and are very comfortable. They run more often, and later, they can be much faster- and the WiFi works better. It’s hard to justify paying anything from 60 percent more to 400 percent more for the trade off a table and some extra leg room. No wonder the only people getting the train are doing it because it’s free.

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