Malta's bus service will become free of charge for all residents from October 1 next year, in a move to encourage better use of public transport and reduce congestion on the roads.

Finance Minister Clyde Caruana said the measure will apply to all residents and holders of the Tallinja card, meaning tourists will still need to pay for the fare.

The major national policy is one of the flagship announcements of Budget 2022.

Public transport is currently already free for those aged 14 to 20, students aged 21 and over, people with a disability and those over 70.

The move comes three years after former Prime Minister Joseph Muscat first proposed the measure. At the time, Muscat had said that Malta needed the infrastructure to facilitate it.

In May 2019, he went as far as to say that commuters could one day be paid to use public transport.

The current transport minister, Ian Borg, also referred to the possibility when speaking in parliament in July last year.

He had said this was a gradual process and that at that moment, public transport was free for a total of 80,000 people.

Borg said the government’s objective was to make the bus service a good alternative to private vehicles, but he acknowledged that in some areas the frequency of the bus service needed to improve.

Several other countries are considering or testing similar measures.   Luxembourg made public transport free last year.

In his budget speech, Caruana said that making the bus service free for all will be introduced late next year to enable the operator to make the necessary arrangements. 

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