Major reduction in fares for pensioners and students delayed

Photo: Dariusz Sieczkowski, CC BY-ND 2.0

The introduction of massively cheaper train and bus travel for Czech pensioners and students has been put back until September. The acting minister of transport says the delay is due to the fact that regional authorities are unable to meet the original deadline.

Photo: Dariusz Sieczkowski,  CC BY-ND 2.0
Last month the ANO government in resignation approved a massive reduction in public transport fares for pensioners and students in the Czech Republic.

Specifically this involves seniors over the age of 65 and children and students between six and 26.

Both groups were to receive a discount of no less than 75 percent on train and bus services from June 10, when new timetables comes into effect.

Announcing the move, the acting prime minister, Andrej Babiš, said it would be a simple and fair system.

For his part, the minister of transport, Dan Ťok, said cheaper travel for students would bring the Czech Republic into line with other European states.

Now, however, the scheme has been put back. Speaking to reporters on Monday, Mr. Ťok, explained the delay.

“The problem is that the regions have been waiting to find out the full wording of the decision. They haven’t been sure what’s going to happen. They will only then begin to modify their systems on the basis of the decision – and they say that they will require a period of six weeks for that.”

The new date for the introduction of the fare reductions is the start of September, Mr. Ťok said.

The delay follows a call last week from the Association of the Regions.

Dan Ťok,  photo: Filip Jandourek
The governor of the Liberec Region, Martin Půta, said that if the original date were adhered to some modes of transport would be unprepared for the change.

The chairwoman of the Association of the Regions, Karlovy Vary governor Jana Vildumetzová, said she and her colleagues had been insufficiently informed about it.

When it does come in, the scheme will not be cheap for the state, with the discounts costing a total of CZK 5.8 billion annually, the Czech News Agency reported.

Hospodářské noviny reported last week that Mr. Babiš’s assertion the money had been acquired through savings was misleading.

The business daily said some ministries were being forced to reduce their spending to cover the cost and that the state could find itself short of funds at the end of the year.

For their part a students’ group told Mr. Babiš that they did not want cheaper transport if it meant corners were cut in education spending.