Trips among Talllinja card users increase by a million

10,000 new Tallinja cards issued in October as number of trips now stands at just 6% less than in 2019

10,000 new Tallinja cards were issued in October as the number of bus trips by patrons who possess the card which entitles its owners to free public transport increased by a staggering 36% from 2.9 million in September - before the introduction of the free bus service - to nearly 4 million in October .

The latest statistics seen by MaltaToday show that the total number of trips in October including those by tourists who do not have a Tallinja card was 16.1% higher than the total number of trips in September. This shows that, as expected, usage has mostly increased among those who own a card and are entitled to the free service.

This increase in usage is partly attributed to the opening of schools and post secondary institutions but also reflects a remarkable increase in the number of people who registered for a Tallinja card.

In fact 10,000 new Tallinja cards were issued in October, during the first month of the free service. Nearly 7,000 cards had already been issued in the month before the commencement of the free service.

This suggests that the introduction of free public transport has attracted a new cohort of bus users who previously did not even bother to register for a card, even if it remains to be seen whether they are using the service occasionally or regularly.

Despite these positive developments the total number of trips in October was still 6% lower than in the corresponding period in 2019, which saw public transport reach record levels in a year during which a record number of tourists had visiting Malta. But this represents an improvement over figures for the first week of the free service when trips were 9% less then in 2019.

The rate of usage represents a sharp improvement over September, when passenger trips were 24% lower than the same month in 2019.

Statistics seem to confirm predictions made by the authorities before the introduction of the service, with expectations being that by the end of 2022 the number of passengers will rise back to 2019 figures when public transport usage had reached record levels. If this aim is achieved by the end of 2022, it would reverse a sharp decline in usage during the pandemic which has also conditioned public attitudes towards public transportation.

A Eurobarometer survey conducted in April 2021 revealed that 42% of Maltese respondents will be using public transport less than they did before the onset of the pandemic. Only 27% of all respondents in the 27 EU member states gave a similar response. Significantly 34% of Maltese replied that they will be “much less likely” to use public transport compared to 16% of respondents in all member states. Among all EU member states only the Hungarians were less inclined to use public transport than the Maltese.