Free bus rides in the counties will continue at least until the end of the year

Bus stop. Photo: Arvo Tarmula
Free bus travel will not disappear this year. Photo: Arvo Tarmula

Regional Minister Madis Kallas confirmed To the postmanthat county free public transport will not be abolished this year.

Even though the representatives of the ruling parties acknowledged at the coalition talks that the maintenance of free public transport in its current form is beyond the means of the state, the public has not yet been informed about the disappearance of bus rides with a private pass.

According to Regional Minister Madis Kallas, the introduction of tickets on county lines is still on the agenda, but it will definitely not happen this year. “Preparations are being actively worked on, because according to the plan, the ticket could be implemented in county buses at the earliest in February 2024,” explained Kallas, whose administrative area public transport was transferred to after the reorganization of the work of the ministries.

According to the regional minister, it is not possible to issue a ticket quickly due to technical reasons. “The deadline has been set for the beginning of next year because the transition to paid travel requires technical preparations from public transport organizers,” he said.

Since the state does not plan to collect additional ticket revenue from passengers this year, the large budget hole of the Transport Board cannot be patched with the uncollected money. If, when making the budget, the Transport Board planned the operating costs of county bus lines to be less than 60 million euros, it was already clear by the end of March that due to the combined effect of new route contracts and inflation, county bus travel will absorb nearly 75 million euros this year, i.e. more than 15 million euros will be missing.

Since the deficit is large, the Transport Board also does not confirm the wishes of the county public transport centers’ line volumes, although the need for it is obvious, the public transport centers complain. Kallas acknowledges the problem. “Solutions are being sought to cover this year’s deficit of the Transport Board,” he admitted.

If a ticket is introduced for county lines, according to the preliminary estimate of the Transport Board, it could bring in additional income of nearly 13 million euros per year.

However, all people probably do not need to buy a ticket, because the coalition agreement states that the elderly, children and people with disabilities will continue to be able to travel for free.

Source: Lääne Elu by

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