Most public transport services are back to pre-recession levels with over 250 million passenger journeys last year according to the latest figures.

The National Transport Authority, in its annual report on Public Service Obligation (PSO) services, also says the Government grant increased by nearly 12% last year to €278 million.

PSO services are those that are socially necessary but require a state subsidy.

Passenger revenues were also up 5% last year across Dublin Bus, Bus Éireann, Iarnród Éireann, Luas and LocalLink services and some private operators to €579m.

However, funding the Free Travel Scheme from the Department of Employment and Social Protection has remained static at around €76m a year despite the number using the scheme increasing by nearly 17% since 2013.

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Free travel is available to those over 66 years, those on carer's allowance and disability allowance.

The report states that because revenue has not increased these passengers are being subsidised by fare paying passengers.

The figures show that Iarnród Éireann, Dublin Bus and Luas passenger numbers combined are above the pre-recession peak of 2007.

Bus Éireann, though, is still at just over 31 million passenger journeys last year compared to nearly 41m in 2007.

The report points out that the economic recovery was slower away from the eastern seaboard and that the bus company also lost 21 days to industrial action in 2017.

Dublin Bus carried the most passengers under PSO services amounting to 54% of the total but only received around 20% of the funding.

It also lost 9% last year because of increasing profits which are capped by EU law.

Iarnród Éireann carried 18% of PSO passengers but got 53% of the funding because of the higher costs of rail.

The Luas does not get PSO funding from the National Transport Authority but the authority makes up for any shortfall in Transport Infrastructure Ireland's cash reserves used for maintenance. The Luas experienced deficits between 2011 and 2013. 

Numbers on Luas increased by nearly 11% last year with the opening of the Cross City line.

Tim Gaston, Director of Public Transport Services at the NTA said:"Today's figures are a further indication of a clear demand for safe, efficient and reliable public transport services".

He said seven new 55-metre trams are being introduced on the Green Luas line. Iarnród Éireann will be introducing a ten-minute frequency on DART services as well as additional services on the Maynooth, Sligo and Kildare lines.

Dublin Bus and Bus Éireann will be getting improvements to their fleets.