Greens want a leap to free student transport

Shane Brennan

The Green Party have proposed to make all public transport free for students as part of their pre budget submission for 2020, a move the National Transport Authority says will cost €60 million per year.

In addition to this the NTA says that approximately 90,000 student leap cards are purchased each year, and the cost of halving the €7 fee needed to purchase one would be in the region of €315,000. Other proposals by the Greens included an increase in SUSI grants and a fund of €1 million for third level students living in Direct Provision.

The announcement comes as many parties proposed measures aimed at reducing the cost of living for students as part of the run up to last week’s budget. Labour said that they would reduce third level contribution fees by €1,000 a year while increasing SUSI grants by 10% at a cost of €84.7 million a year, and Sinn Féin said they would set a long term goal to abolish the student contribution fee altogether.

The environmentalist movement have long backed moves to increase public transport usage as a way of reducing carbon emissions. Green Party councillor Neasa Hourigan said that 50 projects in the government’s Ireland 2040 plan involving roads are under construction while none in public transport are, calling it “a massive problem in terms of our long term plans to decarbonise our economy”.

The Budget announcement on October 8th coincided with the second day of Extinction Rebellion protests in Dublin City Centre, protestor Oisín McNeill reacted to the proposal saying that “we’d probably like public transport to be free for everyone … but we had a citizens assembly where the people were asked what we should actually do and the government hasn’t taken action on what we’ve actually decided”.

When asked what measures the movement wants the government to make McNeill said that “it’s not XR’s job to actually create policies and implement them, the point for us is to try to raise awareness and get the government to take action”.

Fellow protestor Julianne Flynn advocated for Ireland to follow the model of Luxembourg in making public transport free for all, a move the small country plans to implement by March 2020.

The Budget announced by Paschal Donohue last week had no provision for reduction in student public transport fees, nor did it affect SUSI grants. Instead the government’s climate action plan was based on a 30% increase in carbon tax which it says will be ring-fenced for fighting climate change.

Shane Brennan

Image Credit: Joy Nwagiriga