Several long-distance bus lines will stop being free next year

Interior of a long-distance bus (photo is illustrative).
Interior of a long-distance bus (photo is illustrative). Source: ERR

Due to contracts signed years ago, there are several free or cheap long-distance bus lines. Driving passengers for free, which has been annoying bus companies for a long time, will be removed from the new year.

The bus departing at 4 p.m. to Haapsalu is special. While usually, the bus ride to Haapsalu costs around €7 to €10, then this bus takes children up to 19 years old and the elderly to Haapsalu for free, others have to pay significantly less than usual.

Regardless of the cheaper ticket price, younger passengers are upset that the bus schedule is sparse during the day.

"When you put a departure for the rush hour when a large part of passengers are driving for free and a third with a lowered price, then it affects the persistence of commercial traffic quite a lot. It has created a situation where we had to close the Lux Express departure because there are simply not enough passengers," the head of Lux Express Ingmar Roos said.

The free long-distance lines first started in 2018 when the free rides on county lines automatically extended to long-distance lines. In this way, people in Haapsalu can come to Tallinn, Tartu, Pärnu and Märjamaa for free. It's possible to get from Rapla to Tallinn and Märjamaa, from Pärnu to Jõgeva, Tartu and Rakvere.

"At the time, the starting point was quite different. If there were public routes operating from ticket revenue, this Tallinn-Haapsalu long-distance bus line became a public route due to the change of procurement partner and was based on the principle that when it came, it just fell into the same pot," Roos said.

While before the advent of free public transport, ticket revenue covered the costs of the route, then now, the route will cost €70,000.

The Transport Authority acknowledges that there is unfair competition on free long-distance routes and therefore the situation will change from the new year.

"Routes connecting several counties will be equally paid for the elderly and young people. If you buy a ticket online, the discount will be 40 percent, it's only free for those who are beneficiaries of the Public Transport Act," Kirke Williamson, head of the Public Transport Department said.

In Pärnu County, free long-distance travel will end in February.


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Editor: Roberta Vaino

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