According to Minister of Economic Affairs and Infrastructure Kadri Simson (Center), free public transport on county bus lines in Estonia will enter into effect as of July 1, daily Eesti Päevaleht reports.
The minister told the newspaper that the idea of free rides on county bus lines has been moved forward with and free regional public transport will start in Estonia from July 2018. "We have taken a very thorough and long preparation period. It is important that regional public transport centers determine the bus schedules and everyday departures," Simson said.
"Altogether an additional €13 million will come to regional public transport from the state. While last year, the state's endowment was €22 million and ticket money €11 million, then now there is €35 million from the state. And ticket money will still be gathered for the first half of the year, which means that there will also be endowment left for improving line networks," the minister said.
Simson said that meetings between the employees of public transport centers and the Estonian Road Administration have constantly taken place and work has been done to alter contracts with current carriers.
She said that the bus lines in Harju County are the only ones against free regional public transport. "Several public transport centers want that all public service agreements are free for the passengers, except Harju County lines. So there is certain opposition when it comes to Harju County, as there is the largest number of passengers and the largest volume of lines," Simson said.
"But Harju County is also the region where the most recent movement survey was conducted and survey shows that 33 percent of people would abandon their car and opt for public transport if the latter was cheaper or free," the minister said.
Free public transport on county lines is expected to enter into force on July 1, 2018.
Public transport endowment this year will increase from 70 million euros to approximately 92 million euros, including the endowment of bus lines from 21.9 million euros to 34.8 million euros.
Editor: Aili Vahtla