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Last Updated: Monday, 27 September, 2004, 06:29 GMT 07:29 UK
Free travel extension planned
Enterprise train
Those entitled will be able to travel for free in both jurisdictions
A card to enable pensioners and other groups to have free public transport on both sides of the border is being considered by the British and Irish Governments.

Pass holders in Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic are currently entitled to free cross-border journeys, but they are not entitled to free travel within the other jurisdiction.

Under the plan being considered, senior citizens in Northern Ireland with a Senior Smart Pass would be able to travel for free within the Irish Republic, and vice versa.

The Irish Republic's Social and Family Affairs Minister Mary Coughlan confirmed the plan was discussed at a meeting with her Northern Ireland Office counterpart John Spellar in Belfast last Monday.

"Issuing these new smart cards to pensioners and other eligible social welfare client groups is scheduled to commence within the next year," Ms Coughlan said.

"The use of this type of smart card may hold the key to resolving many of the administrative difficulties in operating the proposed All-Ireland Free Travel scheme on both sides of the border.

"Minister Spellar and I agreed that it would be useful to ensure that the smart cards used for public transport and concessionary travel purposes are as compatible as possible to facilitate cross-border journeys."

About 200,000 people in the province are eligible for free travel, which was introduced by the Northern Ireland Executive in October 2001.

Senior citizens in Northern Ireland must produce identification proving they are over 65 to qualify.




SEE ALSO:
Rail fare rise criticised
02 Jul 04  |  Northern Ireland
Mass applications for free travel
03 Apr 02  |  Northern Ireland
Free travel for over 65s
01 Oct 01  |  Northern Ireland


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