Mayor: Tallinn's public transport will continue to be free

People waiting for the tram in Central Tallinn. Photo is illustrative.
People waiting for the tram in Central Tallinn. Photo is illustrative. Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

Tallinn will not give up its free public transport policy even though expenses have rapidly increased, Mayor Mihhail Kõlvart (Center) said on Monday. The new coalition is debating the abolishment of free rural buses.

Public transport has been free for residents of the capital for a decade. But from May 1, ticket prices will increase for visitors. The increase is justified by higher fuel prices, Tallinn City Council says.

But free public transport for Tallinners is here to stay.

"Prices started to rise when costs started to rise, especially for fuel. And the second factor is the increase in wages. Compared to last year, we are spending €37 million on wage increases alone. If in 2019 the annual budget for the city of Tallinn was around €83 million, now it is €120 million," Kõlvart told "Aktuaalne kaamera".

Costs were approximately the same last year, but €16 million for additional funding was pulled from reserves to keep public transport running.

Mihhail Kõlvart. Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

"Let's hope that the price of fuel does not rise so drastically every year. However, wage increases must continue to be addressed. But this is a general trend, not only in this sector, but we have the same trends in every sector. This does not mean that we have to give up on some areas altogether. Services must continue to be provided for the population," said Kõlvart.

Head of Tallinn City Transport (TLT) Kaido Padar said gas and diesel prices have been lower this year and the company has even made a €3 million profit over the last two months.

"I'm looking ahead to this year with confidence and all the indications are that out of the €120 million budget for this year, a few million will be in the profit margin," said Padar.

This is in spite of new developments, such as the summer night bus project, extra bus lines, and the construction of new tramlines.

But more improvements can still be made.

Kaido Padar. Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

"I would suggest to the state that they come and talk to the urban transport authority to see if it is possible to extend some lines further out of the city limits and take passengers from there," Padar said. "All these settlements that have grown up around Tallinn, there is Tabasalu, there is Peetri, there is Laagri...."

Andrus Nilisk, head of the North Estonian Public Transport Center, said big changes are needed to the public transport system network.

"A Tallinn resident who is registered in Tallinn wins and gets a free ride. If you are registered in a neighboring municipality, the fare will become 60 percent more expensive," he said.

Under the current system, different companies operate in the city and surrounding municipalities. Those working outside the city are twice as expensive per kilometer as Tallinn's buses.

"It's not a question of where the kilometer is cheaper or more expensive, it's a question of how you build the system. And public transport is not just about the cost per kilometer," said Kõlvart.


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Editor: Merili Nael, Helen Wright

Source: Aktuaalne kaamera

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