The Malta Independent 12 May 2021, Wednesday

‘Foreign’ bus rate to be eliminated, call for expressions of interest out next week

Malta Independent Friday, 3 January 2014, 10:21 Last update: about 8 years ago

Non-residents will no longer pay higher bus fares as from next Monday, ending a discriminatory practice which the European Commission had insisted should be stopped, Transport Minister Joe Mizzi announced this morning.

At a news conference held outside City Gate in Valletta, where Mr Mizzi met public transport employees, Transport Malta CEO James Piscopo revealed that reducing the fares for non-residents is expected to cost some €3 million a year.

The Commission had initiated infringement proceedings over the higher bus fares, and Mr Mizzi said that Malta had pledged to address them in the first quarter of this year, adding that it had comfortably met this deadline.

Arriva Malta has sold its assets to Transport Malta for a nominal €1 fee, and a government company called Malta Public Transport Services Ltd has been set up to manage the public transport system until it can be privatised again.

According to Mr Piscopo, a call for expressions of interest should be issued next week, barring any legal complications that may arise. Mr Mizzi, on his part, announced that local and foreign companies have already showed interest in taking over a public transport system which saw Arriva Malta incur tens of millions of euros of losses in a little over two years.

Much of that debt, however, will not be taken up by the government, the TM CEO explained: €68 million was either owed to Arriva’s parent company Deutsche Bahn or to other Arriva subsidiaries.

Mr Piscopo added that the government has definitively assumed responsibility over €3.2 million owed to various creditors, and that a further €5-6 million in expenses would be verified once the financial statements for 2013 are available.

Mr Mizzi stressed that he wished for the bus service to be re-privatised in the shortest time possible, and insisted that former Arriva employees would all be retained – since the new company would need to acquire more buses, and thus recruit more employees.

What is certain, the minister added, is that bendy buses would not be returning to Maltese roads.

Mr Mizzi proved reluctant to discuss the added costs that government will incur in its presumably brief takeover of the public transport service, simply insisting that all possible efforts will be made to minimise costs.

Mr Piscopo was slightly more forthcoming: he said that a shortfall was inevitable, over and above the subsidies that the public transport service presently receives. He added that estimates of this shortfall do exist, but insisted that he preferred not to speculate about these costs.

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