BUS ÉIREANN will soon know how many free passes are used on its Sligo town and suburbs services each day.
This follows a series of changes introduced on local buses yesterday, Thursday.
Passes will now be scanned directly into a machine, passengers learned.
They were also advised to always carry their pass when using services as each journey will now be scanned.
Up to now, passengers only had to show their pass to the local driver and no count was kept.
It is unclear if this week's changes have been introduced nationwide or only in Sligo on a pilot basis.
Since the scheme was introduced 40 years ago by the late Charles Haughey, governments have paid an annual sum in lieu to Bus Éireann.
This Public Service Obligation (PSO) grant sum has recently become a subject of renewed contention.
reasons for this are twofold: The numbers availing of free travel have
not always been up to date and the annual grant has not kept pace with
any increased usage.
Meanwhile new tickets with clearer detail were also introduced by Bus Eireann yesterday.
A check by Sligo Today notes that precise details on individual stages of Sligo town journeys are not being monitored.
Yesterday's changes could assist Bus Éireann to more accurately compute a series of revenue streams:-
*** Income from the fare box and paying passengers;
*** Number of free travel pass uses weekly, monthly and annually on local services;
*** State subvention needed annually to maintain services at existing level.
Free travel passes are issued to pensioners and carers by the Department of Social Protection.
Modern versions of the pass usually carry microchip details plus an embedded photograph taken by the Department itself.
The new ticket issued to travel pass holders by Bus Éireann