Yesterday timesofmalta.com reported that the European Commission is to launch formal legal proceedings against Malta over Arriva’s “discriminatory” bus fares.
A letter of formal complaint was sent to Malta last month asking the Government and Arriva to change the “discriminatory” bus fare system as it is currently infringing EU rules.
Since the Arriva service was launched, residents of Malta have been charged less than non-residents. This system was severly criticised by non-residents, insisting the system was discriminatory and did not comply with EU rules.
According to a Ministry of Transport statement, “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.
The EU executive is arguing, however, that the system infringes EU law and should be replaced.