This appeared as a Letter to the Editor in the Irish Independent on Wednesday 3rd of December 2014
I seem to be living austerity eternally—before, during and after the Celtic Tiger years and all through the official austerity years—but that is not why I write. The €2.50 on my prescription shoved my medication of forty years onto my luxury list—now often missed. But that is not why I write. Uisce Éireann’s form came through my door today—more expenses—but that’s not why I write, either.
I write about my Free Travel Pass—my lifeline. Lorraine Courtney’s article (Free Travel Passes Are Pricing the Rest of Us of Train Travel, November 2014) sent alarm bells ringing and icy cold fingers up and down my spine. With my Free Travel Pass I connect with the world. Even if I haven’t the price of a cup of coffee in my pocket (which sometimes happens) I can visit cities, enjoy walks in parks, listen to bands. I can browse in shopping centres and enjoy bracing walks on the seafronts. I can visit places that lift my spirits—the National Concert Hall, art galleries and museums. Through the windows of the train or bus I watch the seasons unfold around me in their beauty and splendour. Even more importantly—I connect with people. I use my Pass to visit family and former colleagues. I use it to visit people who can’t get out of their homes very often.
Not everyone on the train/bus is glued to a laptop, tablet, etc. so conversations take place. This contact with people is so important for mental well-being.
Transport personnel, when not rushed off their feet, have time for a chat. Local personnel have a good idea of my routine and will double-check with me if I request an unusual destination.
After a day visiting places and interacting with people I am ready to return home—physically tired and mentally content.
Without my Free Travel Pass I would be consigned to staring out the window at the same grey footpath, grey strip of asphalt and grey walls—day in, day out, endlessly—a death knell surely?
What is the solution to the cost of travel?—I don’t know. But consider me—and so many others like me—when you (the Government and electorate) think about putting an end to the Free Travel Scheme. Think of us and weigh the cost of treating mental health conditions arising out of loneliness and isolation.
Name and address with editor