THE ‘outrageous’ and ‘bizarre’ cost of West Cork bus services means it would be cheaper for one commuter to take out a car loan and buy a car than buy a weekly ticket.
Alesha Clark travels by bus from Cork city to Kinsale for her job, five days a week, costing her a staggering €3,000 a year, or €62 a week.
‘It would be cheaper for me to pay off a car loan every week,’ she said, calling the prices ‘insane.’ Alesha works in the office of FG Senator Tim Lombard.
Sen Lombard was prompted to examine local fares over recent weeks and discovered ‘major anomalies’ in the pricing structure of Bus Éireann services, whereby West Cork bus users are charged excessive rates in comparison to almost anywhere else in the country.
‘A monthly TaxSaver ticket for Kinsale to Cork city, for example, costs €232.50, but a Carlow to Dublin ticket only costs €206. Carlow-Dublin commuters are travelling at least 96km one way, and yet they are charged significantly less than Kinsale-Cork commuters, who aren’t even travelling a third of that distance,’ he pointed out.
‘Even within Cork itself, a return commute from Cork city to Carrigaline costs less than €4, but travel less than twice that distance – to Bandon – and the charge is €17.50. It is ridiculous, West Cork bus prices are a joke. Annual figures of €3,100 to travel from the city to Bandon and €2,900 to Kinsale are just not sustainable,’ he told The Southern Star.
He also pointed out that the only annual or monthly ticket available in West Cork is for the Kinsale to Cork city service. ‘But what about bus users in Bandon?’ he asked, ‘Or Bantry, Skibbereen, Clonakilty or Dunmanway? The list goes on. There are many West Cork residents who rely on our public transport system, but the current prices are making it completely unaffordable.’
Sen Lombard has flagged the situation, which he called ‘outrageous and bizarre’, with Bus Éireann, the National Transport Authority, and the Transport Minister, looking for greater transparency on the pricing structure. ‘The Transport Minister said he had no direct responsibility for this, but I’ve called on him to get involved in what’s an urban/rural divide. We must make our public services accessible, and I intend to see prices reduced,’ he said.
Deputy Michael Collins (Ind) said he had highlighted the cost of tickets, as well as what he called an ‘inadequate’ bus service, for some time, but felt he was ‘getting nowhere’. ‘There’s no problem spending money in Dublin, but there’s nthing in the government’s 2040 plan for transport in my constituency,’ he said.
Alesha said she wanted to play her part in reducing congestion and emissions by using public transport, but it wasn’t economically viable: ‘It’s very frustrating that there are no cost-saving options for regular commuters. I live in Cork city and the service there is great. I can travel inside the Red Zone for less than €2, but getting to work costs me over €14 and I’m only travelling twice the distance, if that. As well as that, my 10-journey ticket, the cheapest option I can find, has to be used within seven days, so if I purchase this for the working week commute and have to take a sick day, I can’t use two of those journeys I paid for, and nor can I get a refund on them. In this case it would have been cheaper to pay for four return journeys on each individual day of travel.’
A spokesman for the NTA, which sets fares, said: ‘Distance travelled is just one factor considered when it comes to determining fares. However, we are gradually readjusting Bus Éireann fares so that they are more closely aligned to the length of the journey, but other factors will also need to be considered. As a result, discrepancies such as the one you mention will become less of a feature.’