Most city buses in Pärnu run on natural gas, while its price has tripled in a short time, which has forced operator SEBE to pay an additional €700,000 to keep them running. The company's position is that without help from the city and the central government, the fleet will soon be too expensive to run.
Of the 29 city buses in Pärnu, 19 use natural gas as fuel. A further 11 buses servicing nearby county lines also run on gas.
"Gas today costs three times as much as the price used to calculate the cost of the service. Both the city and county lines operators have turned to us for compensation for the extraordinary fuel price hike in the total volume of €1.2 million. We will be taking our applications and calculations to the city government and the Transport Administration next week," said Andrus Kärpuk, head of the Pärnu County Public Transport Center.
The price of gas is forecast to spike again in the coming months, with a kilogram of CNG going for €4 instead of the current price of €2.96 at filling stations. This would render the feasibility of gas buses questionable.
"Still, finding a solution working with carriers is the cheapest option, if only through partial compensation for higher fuel prices as holding new long-term tenders at this time would amount to shooting oneself in the foot," Kärpuk suggested.
Pärnu city lines are operated by SEBE and near-city county lines by Atko Bussiliinid. SEBE has had to pay an extra €700,000 to keep the buses running.
"The solution should be proposed by the city of Pärnu, even though we have made our own suggestions. While the matter is urgent, we are afraid that deliberations will take so long that we will run out of money," SEBE owner Hugo Osula said.
He added that without changes, SEBE will be able to keep running gas buses in Pärnu until September.
But the problem goes beyond the western Estonian city.
"The government has completely ignored its failure to compensate operators of public service contract bus lines that are used to offer free public transport in most places in Estonia for gas price advance," Osula said.
Editor: Marcus Turovski