Speech to the Transport Payments 2020 Conference

27th November, 2014

“How will Irish commuters pay their bus fares in five years’ time?”


Check Against delivery



I would like to thank you for inviting me to open this very prestigious seminar which will focus on the exciting changes that lie ahead in the crucial area of transport payments.


We live in the information age where the use of technology to enhance the customer’s experience is now taken for granted. Public transport must be part of that.  The travel smartcard is a primary example of how technology can improve our daily lives.


One of the ways in which this Government has increased public transport use is by using these smarter technologies to make the public transport experience more responsive and passenger-friendly.


A sustained programme of new, cost-effective integration initiatives with a focus on customer requirements, which include the Leap card, real-time passenger information and journey planning Apps, has been introduced to promote and integrate public transport provision in Ireland.



Our own Leap card has proved an enormous success since it was launched in the Dublin area just three years ago.


Since then over 800,000 cards have been issued to public transport customers travelling on subsidised bus, light and heavy rail services and on commercial bus services.


Total pay-as-you-go revenue from the Leap card stands at €127m accounting for over 50% of all revenue from fares.


Earlier this year the NTA commenced the roll-out of the Leap card to the rest of the country starting with the regional cities of Cork, Galway, Limerick and Waterford. Recently, the NTA introduced an auto-load feature which enables customers to automatically top-up their cards by a pre-agreed amount.



The evolution of the Leap card system is not over. The NTA recently confirmed that it is developing significant new technology to help Leap card customers to simplify their transactions through Near Field Communication (NFC). A contract has been awarded by NTA to the company ViX to develop new features which will be launched by the NTA in the coming years.


For example, the NFC technology will enable Leap card customers to use a free smartphone app to top-up their Leap cards in real time using their credit or debit cards simply by holding the card and phone close to each other.


The whole area of transport payments is developing at a rate few of us would have envisaged even a few years ago.  In the last five years we have moved from coins to the Leap card and in the next five years we may be presenting our bank cards to pay for journeys.


Soon after that our payments will probably be done using our mobile phones. I note that all bus services in London are now completely cashless. This will probably happen in Ireland at some point in the future.




I should add that it is important that as well as making it easy to pay for public transport, it is also important that public transport is affordable.


I am aware that the increases in bus and rail fares, announced in recent weeks by the independent National Transport Authority (NTA), are difficult for many hard pressed commuters.


I am also aware how they may lead to some people questioning the value of public transport vis-à-vis the cost of running a car.


The cost of public transport is one of the reasons I was very keen to ensure that we stop cutting the level of public subvention to the CIE companies – after years of cuts, the investment in 2015 will be the same as that for 2014- and why, I hope, we will start to see that level of subvention start to grow again from 2016.


Coupled with increased passenger numbers in the future, I fully expect to see such fare increases become a far less frequent occurrence in the years that lie ahead.



As I mentioned earlier, the Leap card integrated ticketing system is just one key element of the wider strategy to integrate public transport services and generally improve the experience for the travelling public. Other complementary initiatives include Journey Planning and Real Time Passenger Information Apps, under the Transport for Ireland umbrella, and Real Time Passenger Information displays at stations and bus stops.


Turning to other projects, the development of the Luas light rail system in Dublin has been a great success since it became operational 10 years ago. Luas Cross City epitomises the kind of transport project I want to see developed, one which will help create a truly integrated public transport system in Dublin.


This key project, currently underway, was prioritised for delivery in the Government’s 2011 capital plan despite the reduction in funding for investment arising from financial crises. It was prioritised because it will create a Luas network by linking the existing Red and Green lines and extending the services to Broombridge.


The project is progressing on time and within budget. The contract for the main construction works will be awarded shortly. It is expected that the services on the new line will commence in late-2017.



I am also working with the National Transport Authority to further develop and improve our public transport system within available resources. To help us plan for the future a number of studies are currently being undertaken. These reviews will assess the short, medium and long-term rail transport requirements of the capital and will look particularly at the North Dublin corridor which is located in one of the fastest growing regions in the country and where the main airport is located.


I will be assessing all these reviews in the first half of 2015 including Bus Rapid Transit proposals as well as an updated business case for the DART Underground.


I will then consider the options and priorities for addressing key public transport deficits in the Dublin region having regard to the costs, benefits and affordability of each project. I expect to finalise this review by mid-2015.


Of course it is vital that we protect investment made to date and maintain safety standards. That is why we are investing in our urban bus network in keeping with priorities in the capital framework.


The bus carries 60% of all city-bound public transport trips and is the dominant transport mode in the Greater Dublin Area (GDA). Funding is provided to Dublin Bus and Bus Éireann to facilitate a rolling programme of bus replacement and refurbishment for their subvented services to maintain fleets at an average of six to seven years.


With regard to projects which we hope to deliver in the short-term, one of my immediate priorities, is to bring Irish Rail’s re-signalling project on stream by mid-2016.


The completion of this vital project enables an uplift in capacity from the current 12 trains per hour to 20 trains an hour, in both directions, through the city centre.


This would then facilitate the provision of regular passenger services through the Phoenix Park Tunnel in 2016, as a direct connection from the Kildare commuter line to the north city, via Drumcondra and Connolly Station and the south city business district, via Tara Street, Pearse Street and Grand Canal Dock stations.


The NTA will also continue to deliver improvements in traffic management initiatives in the GDA and in public transport facilities in the regional cities of Cork, Galway, Limerick and Waterford.


Finally, my Department also provides funds towards accessibility projects which are used across the country to improve access to bus and rail stations and to grant-aid additional wheelchair accessible taxis.



As a way of concluding my remarks this morning, I would like to recall the goals of the original integrated ticketing scheme that was to become the Lead card. It was intended that the proposed new ticketing and payment system would:

  • Be simple and intuitive
  • Be fast and reliable
  • Work in similar ways across all modes
  • Support fair competition between operators
  • Be supported by a recognisable brand
  • Reduce the likelihood of fraud, and
  • Have the full confidence of customers, staff, operators and regulators


I believe those fundamental objectives remain equally valid today, particularly in the context of the purpose of today’s seminar, as we explore the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead in responding to the needs of the travelling public by improving the integration and affordability of public transport services across all modes.