Estonians to get free public transport

28 Jun 18

Estonians will soon benefit from free public transport after the government agreed to give regional transport centres additional funding, the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications has confirmed.

 

The government expects to hand out approximately €34.8m in 2018 to cover the total amount of ticket revenue and subsidies for local public transport centres in rural areas, the Ministry told PF International.

In 2017, the state subsidy for regional bus lines was €21.7m.

Free travel will initially start on county buses and eventually be extended to trains. Until train travel is free tickets for state-owned railways will be considerably cheaper.

The head of the ministry’s PR department told PF International that the increased public subsidy to bus lines will improve living conditions at the countryside and improve mobility for people living in rural areas.

“Having better and cheaper transportation opportunities can open up the possibility to use additional different public services that are located, for example, in another county,” the head Rasmus Ruuda said.

From 1 July, every county in can implement free bus travel for its residents.  

Although counties can opt out of the scheme,  they will then miss out on the additional funding from the national budget allocated for county public transport.

“The state has provided all local public transport centres with financial resources that will cover their last year's subsidy and the total amount of ticket revenue,” Ruuda said.

“In big picture, the part of passengers’ contribution in ticket prices was one-third. Now the state pays it in full amount. It is seen more as a regional and social measure.”

The country’s capital Tallinn made buses free of charge to all its residents five and a half years ago, in 2013. But visitors, and people from other parts of Estonia, had to pay to use the transport network of buses, trams, trains and trolley buses.

But under the new scheme, all rural lines will be without free for everyone. In cities, apart from Tallinn, there will still be a fee for transportation.

Ruuda said that other cities and regions around the world have shown interest in free public transportation.

The Welsh government announced last year that it would launch a pilot offering free weekend bus travel to passengers across the country.

He said: “At the moment, Estonia is seen as a test polygon and others could take over our know-how in the future.”

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