Regulation signed to introduce free public transport in counties ({{commentsTotal}})

Many rural and less densely populated areas already rely on subsidized county bus routes for transport.
Many rural and less densely populated areas already rely on subsidized county bus routes for transport. Source: (Postimees/Scanpix)

Minister of Economic Affairs and Infrastructure Kadri Simson (Center) signed a regulation on Monday that leaves it to Estonia's public transport centers to decide whether or not they want to hold on to the current ticket system, or adapt their pricing towards a system that eventually is free of charge to the residents of a certain area.

Simson explained to ERR's radio news on Monday that the new regulation replaces arrangements previously made at the county level to set the maximum ticket price within the area of operation of a certain public transport center.

While last year the counties' bus lines were funded with a total of €36.4 million out of the state budget as well as from local governments and ticket sales, €42.1 million are available to cover the operating cost this year.

"The regulation gives the public transport centers the choice whether to continue with the current system, or to make public transport free of charge," Simson said, adding that this will depend on the demands of local governments. The loss of ticket income will be replaced by money out of the state budget.

Simson also said that the regulation doesn't need the approval of the government coalition, but that she still sought the support of the Center Party's junior partners, the Pro Patria and Res Publica Union (IRL) and the Social Democrats.

The Estonian Road Administration will now coordinate the implementation of the plan with the public transport centers. Simson expressed hope that most of the centers will adopt the coalition's policy aiming at providing free public transport to residents.

Editor: Dario Cavegn



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