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14 June, 2024
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U-turn on school bus fare hike

Full subsidy averts controversy as Department of Transportation reverses decision amid parent and public concern

Maria Eracleous

Maria Eracleous

In a reversal that has quelled widespread apprehension, school bus fares will not be subject to an increase after all. The issue has spurred heated debates among organized parents and the Department of Transportation. Initially, there were discussions of a partial subsidy to alleviate the impact of the anticipated fare rise. However, the Department of Transport has now resolved to fully subsidize the additional cost, ensuring that pupil fares will remain at the same level as the previous school year. The total subsidy to accommodate the fare hike is estimated at €1.2 million.

An official announcement outlined that, in collaboration with the Public Service Companies of Inland Road Passenger Transport, the relevant ministry has embraced a social policy stance to bolster passenger transport. This move aligns with the start of the new 2023-2024 School Year and introduces three novel categories of season tickets, each offering an additional discount as follows:

  • 30-day tickets will be priced at 10 euros after the first cancellation.
  • For 90-day tickets, the price will be 25 euros post the first cancellation.
  • 180-day tickets will be available for EUR 45, and 360-day tickets will be priced at EUR 80.

This decisive shift came following the Department's consultation with the Pancyprian Confederation of Parents' Associations of Secondary and Technical Education, in response to the recent school bus fare increase. The decision underscored the desirability of promoting bus use among pupils to cultivate a lifelong habit of utilizing public transportation. Addressing concerns, it was noted that any escalation in bus fares might inadvertently dampen ridership and counteract efforts to alleviate road congestion and air pollution—a strategic goal at the forefront of their agenda.

More passengers this year

The Department for Transport's latest statistics unveil a notable rise in bus utilization for the current year when compared to the data from 2022. Particularly striking is the surge in passenger numbers observed each month up until June. Nicosia, as the province boasts the highest passenger volume, showcasing impressive figures: January marked a 27% surge, followed by 20% in February, and an impressive 39% jump in March—a pinnacle for monthly bus ridership in the capital. Remarkably, the momentum of double-digit growth extends through the months leading up to June.

The Limassol EMEL buses also observed an influx of passengers, with percentages escalating from 38% in January to a notable 5% by June. Notably, Famagusta province emerged as a frontrunner in this trend, with OSEA buses experiencing a substantial 48% surge in ridership compared to the same period in 2022. Meanwhile, both Paphos and Larnaca provinces mark double-digit increases. The panorama remains optimistic for Intercity long-distance buses as well, substantiated by steady growth percentages: a remarkable 48% surge in January gradually settles to a still impressive 28% by June.

These figures indeed underscore a positive shift towards public transport adoption; however, the journey to reach the desired benchmark evidently remains long and challenging.

The target

In a recent interview with "K," Transport Minister Alexis Vafeiadis elaborated on a comprehensive strategy for fostering a greener transportation landscape, wherein an amplified emphasis is placed on promoting bus utilization and accelerating electrification efforts. Central to this endeavor is the overarching objective of diminishing car dependency by offering buses as a viable alternative. This dual approach also holds the promise of alleviating the long-standing issue of traffic congestion on Cypriot roads.

Minister Vafeiadis highlighted the significance of the year 2027 as a pivotal milestone. Within this timeframe, a substantial portion of Cyprus' targeted goals must be achieved to lay the groundwork for the successful execution of objectives by 2030. It is noteworthy that Cyprus' new emission reduction commitment to the European Union has been revised upwards. The aim is now to achieve a 32% reduction in emissions compared to the 2005 baseline—replacing the initial 24% target—by the year 2030. This ambitious shift underscores Cyprus' commitment to driving environmental progress in line with EU obligations.

[This article was first published on Oikonomiki and translated from its Greek original]

Cyprus  |  inflation  |  school  |  bus

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