Bus companies operating free routes can't keep up with rising fuel prices

A county bus at Narva Bus Station.
A county bus at Narva Bus Station. Source: Sergei Stepanov/ERR

Five bus companies have sent a joint appeal to the Estonian president, prime minister and government seeking to make changes to contracts concluded with the state, as rising fuel prices are making it impossible for them to fulfill their contractual obligations under current contract conditions.

According to the appeal, which was signed by Hansabuss, Sebe, Atko, M.K Reis-X and Gobus, due to increasing fuel prices, insufficient funding as well as contracts that don't take changes to the economic situation into account, the situation with bus services organized at the request of the state has reached the point where, if things remain on their current course, bus services between several towns and municipalities will be grinding to a halt this fall.

The bus companies said that in order to avoid this, a solution to these problems has to be found immediately.

In order to draw attention to the looming crisis, the companies will each halt service on one of their bus routes in Harju County on Saturday, June 11.

The companies noted that while a liter of diesel fuel cost less than €1.20 in Estonia last May, on year that has increased to €1.85. The price of compressed gas, which many of the buses run on, has nearly tripled on year, soaring from €0.89 to €2.49.

They also noted that rising gas prices have also led to increased public transport ridership; in the first quarter of 2022, for example, county bus routes have served 26 percent more passengers than during the same period last year.

According to the companies, however, the state has forgotten the bus companies, and is expecting that the country's bus routes are served for the same amount of funding they were back when fuel still cost €1.20 per liter.

"Figuratively speaking, the contracts concluded for operating bus routes have put carriers into the position in which, due to the increase in fuel prices, there is only enough state funding to operate a Tallinn-Jõhvi bus route to Rakvere," the bus companies noted in their appeal, adding that bus companies are essentially being forced to pick up the tab for the Rakvere-Jõhvi leg of the route themselves.

The bus companies included three proposals in their appeal: to compensate losses incurred in connection with already requested bus services, to the tune of €3 million, to recalculate the price per served kilometer once every three months, and to expand the revenue base of public bus routes.

According to the companies, in difficult times it is vital to provide free or subsidized services, but in order to continue providing services, they should seek ticket revenue from those capable of paying.


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Editor: Aili Vahtla

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