Mizzi confirms increase in public transport subsidies

Transport minister Joe Mizzi confirms public transport subsidy will be increasing however fails to say how much government will be paying new Spanish operators

Autobuses de Leon will be receiving more than the €10 million a year which government was paying in subsidies to the previous public transport operator Arriva.

Transport minister Joe Mizzi said government’s main objective in the agreement signed with the Spanish company was that of guaranteeing a “sustainable and efficient service while ensuring that tariffs are affordable.”

Autobuses de Leon will be taking over the public transport service in January 2015 and reportedly the company asked for €30 million in subsidies.

However, in a reply to Parliamentary Question, Mizzi failed to give a direct answer when asked to quantify the subsidies government will be paying the Spanish operator.

Instead he noted that the expenses to operate an efficient service increased following the reduction of bus tickets for non-Maltese passengers and added that the expenses are set to increase with the introduction of new routes.

“It is therefore not realistic to argue in favour of keeping the subsidies at the same level when we are aiming at encouraging people to use public transport instead of their private vehicles,” he said.

Reportedly, the previous operator had asked the government €45 million a year in subsidies before prematurely quitting its 10-year contract

In a separate reply, Mizzi said that since the public transport service was nationalised in January, Malta Public Transport Services spent €2.9 million in maintenance works on the fleet of buses.    

This, he noted, was less than the €3.1 million Arriva spent in the five-month period between January and May in 2013.