Minister of Economic Affairs and Infrastructure Kadri Simson (Centre) has proposed to the Estonian government not to support a bill introduced by Pro Patria Party chairman Helir-Valdor Seeder that would amend the Public Transport Act in such a way that municipalities are granted additional funding for public transport even without introducing free public transport on county bus lines.
According to Simson, the aim of the national public transport policy and provision of county bus services is better integration of the nationwide network of public transport services and as uniform a provision of the public service by the state regardless of county borders, which is why free public transport was introduced on county bus lines and the former functions of county governments were handed over to the Estonian Road Administration.
"The wish of the initiators of the bill is the opposite, as it represents a wish to favour, using the assets of the state, the creation of a split and autonomous line network and transport service on the local level in the interest of the municipality in the first place," said the minister. "As such, the bill would upend the existing principles of public transport policy and the Public Transport Act and would begin serving as an obstacle to the organisation of public transport serving the transportation needs of local residents."
In addition, she continued, the Pro Patria bill would not ensure the efficient use of resources, as it seeks to make financing the functions of municipalities a duty of the state.
At the same time, Simson agreed with the Minister of Finance's observation that decision-making regarding the allocation of money should be done at a level lower than that of the state government.
"In conclusion, we find that the bill to amend the Public Transport Act runs counter to the goals of the public transport policy thus far and the provision of county public bus services, as well as the amendments to the Public Transport Act that took effect as recently as this January," the minister said.
The Riigikogu accepted a Pro Patria-initiated bill that seeks to change the organisation of public transport to give regional public transport centres the right to impose fares on county bus lines and decide about fare reductions. Minister of Public Administration Janek Mäggi (Centre) has proposed that the government not support the bill. Minister of Finance Toomas Tõniste (Pro Patria), however, supported it.
The goal of the bill is to let municipalities decide themselves on what to spend the additional money provided to them for the operation of public transport, such as introducing free rides on public transport or adding additional departures to the existing transport network.
Editor: Aili Vahtla