Responding to bus companies who have threatened to stop operating public bus routes, the Transport Administration warned that doing so would constitute a breach of contract, which could in turn mean fines as well as be grounds for exclusion from public procurements.
"The unilateral shutdown of bus traffic on a bus route ordered by the state in no way contributes to the seeking of constructive solutions, as it is the riders for whom we are working that suffer as a result," Director General of the Transport Administration Kaido Padar wrote in a response to a joint appeal issued by several bus companies operating public bus routes in Estonia.
"Such activity also constitutes a breach of the concluded contract, in which case the Transport Administration is bound by law to launch supervision proceedings with all its consequences," he added.
Asked by ERR on Tuesday what these specific consequences would be, the Transport Administration responded, "A potential fine of up to €6,4000. Repeated breaches may also be grounds for exclusion from public procurements."
Padar emphasized that some 25,000 people a day ride on county bus routes, and disrupting services could mean that someone is cut off from vital transport. This cannot be condoned, he added.
Padar also noted in his response that since February 24, the Transport Administration has identified risks tied to Russia's war in Ukraine as well as repeatedly discussed problems and sought possible solutions together with transport companies.
"It is as a result of these discussions that we decided to establish a fund worth nearly €1 million to help bus carriers cope with the sharp rise in fuel prices," he said. "The fund was launched as a one-time measure to cover the first half of 2022; in the second half of the year, contractual indexations are slated to enter into force for carriers, which will also cover costs resulting from the increase in fuel prices."
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. 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.
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.
Editor: Aili Vahtla