SHARING MY HOBBIES AND MY INTERESTS

THE LEAP PREPAID TRAVEL CARD

The Leap Card is a form of integrated ticketing introduced in Dublin on 12 December 2011. It is a prepaid card which can be used on Dublin Bus, DART, Iarnród Éireann, Swords Express and Luas; minimum top up for the card is currently €5. The Leap Card is the result of many years work by the Railway Procurement Agency to get an integrated ticketing-scheme for the public transport in Dublin city. Initially it only offers a pre-paid electronic wallet system to buy single trip journeys on Luas, DART / Commuter and Dublin Bus but there are plans to also offer week, month and year subscriptions on the card. In October 2014 there were over 750,000 Leap card users according to the National Transport Authority.

The Leap Card is currently valid for travel in the Greater Dublin area, on Bus Éireann services in Cork, Limerick, Galway, and on Wexford Bus services to and from Dublin.
Public transport in the larger Dublin area is offered by several companies. Apart from several private companies (mainly offering large distance city-to-city buslinks) and the country-wide Bus Éireann transport is offered by:
• Luas - operating two tram-lines in the city operated by Veolia Transport
• Dublin Bus - the state owned bus service operating lines in the Greater Dublin transport area
• Iarnród Éireann - the national railway company offering intercity services, Commuter and DART services.
Even though the state is the owner or an important stake-holder for each of these services, they all have their own ticketing scheme. Until the introduction of the Leap card one could have three non-compatible (standard- or smart) -cards for travel within the limits of Greater Dublin: a Luas card to pay for individual journeys, a Dublin Bus smart-card for day, week or year tickets and an Iarnród Éireann card for DART or Commuter tickets. The Leap Card is also accepted on the privately owned Swords Express service, which links Swords to Dublin City Centre and is operated by Eirebus.

The Railway Procurement Agency, responsible for the development of light railway and metro infrastructure, started developing an integrated smart card system. First plans were made at the end of the last century and initially it was planned to introduce an integrated card when the Luas system would start to operate in 2004 or 2005. The development of the new system had many delays and set-backs and the costs for the new system were far higher than budgeted.

Even though the state has a lot of influence in the different transport companies (the Luas trams are operated by a private company Veolia Transport but under tender of the RPA, while Dublin Bus and Iarnród Éireann are fully state owned), it took the RPA until 2012 to actually introduce the new smart card system for the general public.

Even though the Leap Card is usable on the bus, tram and local railway lines, it can only be used for single journeys within one of the systems. Any form of subscription/multi-day offerings are not (yet) possible with the Leap card: each company has their own system for that (using both smart-cards as well as 'paper' tickets). And one journey using two or more of above systems will require the user to buy separate 'single journeys' for each leg of the journey.

Even though tickets bought with the Leap card are cheaper than single journeys bought with cash money, using the Leap card for frequent travellers is more expensive than using the different weekly or monthly cards. There are plans however to extend the functionalities of the card, like the ability to "upload" a week, month or year-card to a Leap card.


For frequent travellers using only one system one can use the day, weekly, monthly or year-cards for the required route or system. For people who need to use two or more different systems there are several 'Combi' ticket subscriptions: BUS-LUAS, BUS-DART & DART-LUAS. The former two are available at Luas and DART ticketing vending machines, and ticket offices. However, oddly, and with no explanation apparent on any of the service websites, the DART-LUAS tickets are neither available in the DART
or LUAS vending machines, nor are they available online, they can only be bought at DART ticket offices offering daily rambler, weekly and monthly variations.
To use the integrated ticketing scheme one will need to buy a Leap card via any of the ticket-outlets. A new card will cost €10 and that card will have an initial credit of €5. Value from an existing smart-card cannot be transferred onto a Leap card, but it is possible to get a free Leap card for holders of the 'old' Luas or Rail smart-cards. Customers can only use the card when they have sufficient funds on the card to pay for their fare; after the first trips the card must be reloaded. This can be done via the ticket outlets that sell the card or via the LUAS ticketing machines.

It is also possible to reload a card using the Leap card website, but it must then be registered online. When a Leap card is registered, the cardholder can check their travel/purchase history online, but the card is no longer anonymous.
Although one can currently only use the Leap card for single journeys on the mentioned operators other operators will join the scheme in the future. Bus Éireann and private operators are in the process of joining the scheme and Leap cards can already be used in some of their services as of August 2014.

The capabilities of the card are currently being extended to reach almost all groups. Extensions of the card now operational are:

  • Transfer rebates: when a journey includes several modes of transport (where one has to pay individually for each) a "transfer rebate" is credited to the card. This scheme was introduced on 1st November 2014.
  • Monthly and yearly passes. All the former Dublin Bus tickets have migrated to the Leap card as well as the LUAS year-passes as well as monthly Tax-Saver subscriptons. This process was completed in May 2014.
  • Special fares for students and schoolchildren. This scheme was completed on 1st August 2014 with the new Personalised Child Leap card for children 16 to 18 years of age. This card expires on the child's 19th birthday. Children from the age of 4 to the age of 15 must use an Anonymous Child Leap card.