Some county bus tickets may exceed flat rate price proposed by minister

Tartu County is one of many across Estonia to offer free public transport on county bus lines, a service soon coming to an end.
Tartu County is one of many across Estonia to offer free public transport on county bus lines, a service soon coming to an end. Source: Anette Parksepp/ERR

While Minister for Regional Affairs Madis Kallas (SDE) says a flat-rate ticket price of no more than a copule of euros should apply to all of Estonia's county bus lines, once they return to a paid principle in the new year, ETV news show "Aktuaalne kaamera" (AK) reported Friday that in come cases, this level may be exceeded by around a half.

Estonia has 15 counties, most of which have since 2018 offered free bus travel within that county itself. However this has come under pressure for revision in the current budgetary situation.

The changes will not effect the free public transport for local residents (visitors and out-of-towners must still purchase a ticket) which has been in place in Tallinn for over a decade.

In some regions, county bus tickets exceed the level proposed by Minister of Regional Affairs Madis Kallas (SDE), who said this should be €1.50 to €2.00, effective from the new year and within one single county.

In practice, AK found that in Harju County, in which Tallinn lies, getting from Kose for instance, 40km to the Southeast of the capital, costs €2.78, though one passenger told AK the greater issue was the frequency of service and the rather circuitous route the bus takes.

Harju County is the most populous of the 15 counties in Estonia, and is divided into four zones, so far as bus travel goes.

Andrus Nilisk, the executive director of the North Estonian Public Transport Center (Põhja-Eesti ühistranspordikeskus) said that if the ticket zones in Harju County were to be abolished and travel made cheaper for those coming from far away, then the route network would also need thinning out, or, alternatively, the ticket prices should be raised for those who travel by bus only for short distances to as high as €3.00

Meanwhile in Pärnu County in the South of the country, bus travel for all is already paid, though there is a standard rate of €1.50, regardless of how far you travel.

"Fewer people live further away. They pay via the time they spend traveling. We think it fair that everyone has exactly the same price and on the same principles," Andrus Kärpuk, manager of the Pärnu County Public Transport Center (Pärnumaa ühistranspordikeskus) said.

Minister Kallas has also expressed a preference for an entire county to have one flat-rate ticket price, though the zoning system and ticket prices in Harju County will remain unchanged, least for now. 

What the final ticket tariffs will be in other counties, those where travel is currently free, will be revealed at the beginning of November, AK reported.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte, Merili Nael

Source: 'Aktuaalne kaamera," reporter Johannes Voltri.

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