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Ministry defends bus fares structure after EU complaint

The  Transport Ministry insisted this evening that  Malta has repeatedly informed the European Commission that bus fares in Malta are not based on nationality but
on residence and therefore they do not breach the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.

"Furthermore, Malta has emphasised that the bus service reform, including the
proportionate nature of the fares, is justified under EU law as it is part of a larger policy by Malta aimed at the objective of addressing congestion and health problems."

The ministry was reacting to a report in The Sunday Times that the EU has given notice of actions against Malta over alleged discriminatory bus fares.

In a statement, it said:

"With more than 300,000 licensed vehicles, Malta’s traffic congestion equates to 884 vehicles per square kilometre (by far the highest rate in the EU27 where the second highest rate is in the Netherlands at 244 vehicles per square kilometre, compared to an EU average of 69 vehicles per square kilometre) and 112 vehicles per kilometre of road (also by far the highest rate in the EU27 where the second highest rate is in Italy at 81 vehicles per kilometre of road, compared to an EU average of 10 vehicles per kilometre of road).

"The Household Travel Survey carried out in 2010 shows that only 15% of local trips are made using public transport, while 74.6% are made by private car; the percentage of trips by public transport between 1989 and 2010 fell by 42.9%.

"Moreover, qualitative research shows that 62.4% of existing bus users are bus-dependant, meaning that for economic, health or age reasons they cannot own or drive their own car and, therefore, use public transport out of necessity.

"In order to put the new fares into perspective, it is pertinent to note that the full rate (charged to non-residents), effective from 3 July 2011, is €2.60 for a day ticket or €12.00 for a 7-day ticket, either one allowing the holder unlimited travel on all bus services on the island of Malta.

"This makes it significantly cheaper than almost any other EU Member State.

"Malta has argued that departure from the current subsidised fares would, in a best case scenario, lead to no, or insignificant, growth in bus patronage. In a worst case scenario, it would likely result in a continuation of the trend of declining bus usage which has developed over the past 40 years."

The Ministry reiterated that the differentiated fare scheme, which is based on residence and not on nationality, is an essential component of the bus transport reform which has the objective of bringing about a modal shift from private to public transport, thereby positively contributing to Malta’s environment, health, air quality and quality of life.

"Malta considers that such a scheme is, therefore, not only necessary for the well being of its residents, but has been implemented in a proportionate manner which is in line with EU legislation. The Government is in discussion with the European Commission on the dossier," the ministry said.

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