Ireland should invest in improving the public transport network instead of making it free, according to a transport expert.
It comes after junior minister Robert Troy called for Ireland to move towards free public transport, after experiencing the free system in Luxembourg.
While in Luxembourg 🇱🇺 I took light rail into city centre last night - Public Tranpsort is totally free. While Government & @EamonRyan has undoubtedly made progress on fares. This is route we need to travel imo. pic.twitter.com/USTqpggUhr
— Robert Troy TD (@RobertTroyTD) June 9, 2022
On Newstalk Breakfast this morning, Trinity College Engineering Professor Brian said it would cost in the region of €500m a year to make public transport free.
He said it is a “nice idea” – but he believes the money could be better spent elsewhere.
If I had €500m and I was the Transport Minister, that could get me 8km of Luas line. it would pay for about one quarter of Bus Connects,” he said. “So, is that the right way to go? To give public transport for free?
— Emma Tyrrell (Ní Riain) (@EmmaNiRiain) June 13, 2022
“The CSO looked into this in 2019 - why people weren’t using public transport - and only about 7% of people said cost was the main barrier.
“The bigger barriers were all the things we know about – infrequent services, no services nearby and unreliable service.
“So that’s where I would put the money, rather than making the whole system free.”
Professor Caulfield said an ideal policy would include improving the system while also making it free, but warned; “I don’t think we’re in that space currently in Ireland.”
“What I think would get more people to use public transport and meet our climate goals would be to make it better,” he said. “To put more investment into public transport. That’s what we are seeing across the public transport network at the moment.”
Professor Caulfield said the public transport fare system needs to be reformed – with reduction in off-peak fares and more flexibility in programmes like the tax-saver tickets.
“That’s where I think we could put reforms in but making it carte blanche free, I don’t think that would work,” he said.
“We saw that last weekend in Germany. They radically reduced the cost of public transport over there and their network - probably one of the best in the world - wasn’t able to cope.”
After 8.15am, @brian_caulfield will be joining to discuss whether all public transport should be free, but is cost really the biggest barrier to public transport use?
Which measure do you think would see the greatest increase in public transport use?
— Newstalk Breakfast (@NTBreakfast) June 14, 2022
Green Party MEP Ciarán Cuffe has warned that free transport may not be the best way to spend the money – calling for increased investment to be prioritised.