Fine Gael Councillor Pat McCartan calls for end to scaremongering about free travel pass

Fine Gael Councillor Pat McCartan, has called for an end to scaremongering with regard to the free travel pass for pensioners.

“The situation is very clear.  A review of the free travel pass system is currently being carried out by the Department of Social Protection. While the review is aimed at addressing fraud within the system, I am aware that there are rumours circulating that the scheme might be stopped or withdrawn for some of those of pensionable age in the next Budget.

“It is unfair for anyone to spread rumours about this without having all the facts.  Speculation that passes will be withdrawn is causing unnecessary unease among senior citizens and their families.  As articulated clearly by members of the Cabinet, the Government is not looking to withdraw free travel passes from older people who are entitled to them.

“The present review of the system is an effort to reduce fraud which is taking place in a relatively small number of cases. The free travel scheme permits free travel on most CIE public transport services, Luas and a range of services offered by over 90 private operators in various parts of the country at an annual cost to the exchequer of some €77 million. There are currently in excess of 745,000 customers eligible for free travel and when spousal and companion passes are taken into account, there are over 1.1 million customers with free travel eligibility. Almost 20 percent of the population has entitlements.

“I reiterate the comments of the Minister for Transport, Deputy Varadkar, that the removal of the benefit is not at all on the agenda of Government and I hope that this puts to bed any rumours to the contrary.”