The offer of free public transport for all residents starting on October 1 will increase passenger numbers to pre-pandemic levels by the end of this year, Transport Malta has predicted.

The number of people travelling by bus reached its highest point in 2019 but COVID-19 then changed traveller behaviour, the government’s transport regulator said in answer to questions.

Weeks away from the introduction of free public transport, predictive models are projecting an increase in demand for trips.

Plans to expand route frequency will factor in the expected rise in demand. Buses running at next to full capacity or at full capacity are also being identified before free public transportation is rolled out, TM said.

You will need a Tallinja card to ride for free

When he announced the scheme during last year's budget, 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 the fare.

Currently, people pay for their trips using the credit held on their Tallinja card, at the rate of 75c per journey. Otherwise, they pay the bus driver in cash or by credit card at the rate of €2 in summer and €1.50 in winter.

Students and the elderly receive refunds into their Tallinja card every month depending on the number of trips they take.

From October, the credit and refund system will be scrapped but passengers will still need to scan their personalised Tallinja card when they embark. Those who do not have a Tallinja card will have to pay a fare, Transport Malta said.

Customers can register online for a Tallinja card and need to provide some kind of identification document such as an Identity Card or passport, as well as personal details such as telephone number and e-mail address.

Don't expect any increase in night-time routes

There are no plans to lay on more night-time routes. So anyone wanting to return home late at night will generally still have to find alternative options.

“At present, there are no plans to extend the operational times of the regular routes as the focus is on frequency.”

The average last departure time for Valletta-bound routes is 10.11pm, with the average arrival time being 10.39pm. Other routes excluding the airport and Mater Dei hospital lines have their average last departure at 9.03pm.

For airport-bound routes, the average last departure is at 10.52pm and the average expected arrival time is 11.34pm, Transport Malta said. In Malta, there are two night routes, both departing from entertainment mecca Paceville. These go to Valletta and Buġibba.

In Gozo, the singular night route ferries passengers from Victoria to Mġarr harbour.

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