Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 20 December 2014

No all-Ireland free rail travel for over-60s

It was a day of full political co-operation - the culmination of an idea announced last December by the then Finance Minister Peter Robinson (DUP) and launched this week by DRD Minister Conor Murphy (Sinn Fein) for Wednesday’s take-off.

And the only criticism from the people affected by the new deal was that it didn’t have an all-Ireland dimension!

Could this by the same Stormont that refused to convene an Executive meeting for Thursday!?

Yes! It was the day that the province’s 90,000 people in the 60-64 age bracket became eligible for free train and bus travel, courtesy of the Government’s 60+ SmartPass And with 50,000 taking up the option - and seemingly most of them taking full advantage on the first day - the trains and buses were packed with eager, happy sexagenarians.

Belfast Telegraph contributor Victor Gordon (an over-65 who carries the full Senior SmartPass) went on the rails from his home town Portadown to Belfast, interviewing a clutch of eager travellers, clutching their orange-coloured cards, delighted to be travelling to the capital city for one reason or other.

With him was his wife Elizabeth, one of the new batch of 60+ travellers who have been anticipating the day when they could climb on board bus and train and have a day out anywhere in Northern Ireland, courtesy of the DRD.

And, like all the rest, she was rather miffed that - unlike her journalist husband’s card - hers does not apply to travelling all over Ireland. No fault of our own dear politicians, let it be emphasised. It’s just the the TDs in the Dail restrict free travel to the true wrinklies of the over-65 variety.

The 60-64s in Northern Ireland will have to wait for that 32 counties dimension, although few were admitting how long that wait would be!

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