Malta’s bus service shall become free of charge within a number of years as part of government’s commitment to promote sustainable modes of transport, Infrastructure Minister Ian Borg said in parliament on Tuesday.

“This is a gradual process which was started off some years ago with free transport for students, young people, elderly persons and disabled people who total 80,000,” the minister said.

He was replying to a question from government backbencher Anthony Agius Decelis who asked if the government was considering making the bus service free for all.

Borg said that this transition would be done gradually. At present, the service was free for 40,000 students and young people aged between 14 and 20 years, 19,000 commuters over 75 years and further 19,000 bus users with special needs.

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

He also pointed out that in the last two years, the operator, Malta Public Transport, had modernised its fleet through the introduction of 90 new buses, some of which had a larger capacity than the King Long buses introduced in 2011 when Arriva had taken over the service.

Asked by the opposition whip if the government was considering re-introducing a route departing from G─žadira Bay in summer to cater for the increase in demand,  Borg said talks were underway with the Mellie─ža council.

While pointing out he had no objections to such a service, the infrastructure minister said that adding new routes would mean increasing government subsidies to the operator, which is around €30 million per year.

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