State subsidies drive up bus passenger numbers

Photo: Radim Holiš, CC BY-SA 3.0 CZ

State-subsidised travel for senior citizens and students has led to full buses in the Czech Republic, reported. Experts say the government scheme is encouraging existing passengers to travel more.

Photo: Radim Holiš,  CC BY-SA 3.0 CZ
In the first half of this year, people in the Czech Republic took 184 million bus journeys (not including on city- and town-run local transport services).

This was 16 million higher than in the same period in 2018 and comes on the back of state subsidies of CZK 5.6 billion spread across one year.

Public transport saw falling numbers for a period of several years and the 8 percent year-on-year rise in bus tickets sold between January and July bucks that trend.

The number of passengers on bus routes operating at regional level was up by around 11 percent, said.

Train rides, by contrast, were up by 3 percent in the first six months of 2019. The cut-price fares for the young and the elderly were introduced by Andrej Babiš’s ANO-led government.

The general secretary of the transport companies association Česmad, Vojtěch Hromíř, told the news site that other factors spoke against an increase in passenger numbers.

Mr. Hromíř pointed to the poor state of the many of the country’s motorways and associated tailbacks, as well as a rise in living standards that allowed more Czechs to afford relatively “luxurious” modes of transport.

The head of the Association of Public Transport Passengers, Miroslav Vyka, told that the government subsidies had not attracted new passengers choosing to leave their cars at home for price reasons.

Rather they have spurred existing users of public transport to make more journeys, he said.

New half-year transport figures also show an increase in goods transported by lorries and freight trains in the Czech Republic.

However, not all carriers have benefited from the economic boom, said.

International truck haulage experienced a significant drop, falling by around 4.7 million tonnes to around 14 million tonnes in the first six months of 2019.

Photo: European Roads,  Flickr,  CC BY-NC 2.0
Vojtěch Hromíř of Česmad says the total volume of truck transport is driven by haulage within the Czech Republic’s borders, together with an own-account transport segment that is growing significantly.

Such transport is run by manufacturers, traders or construction companies themselves, meaning they do not hire haulage firms.

When it comes to international transport, Czech drivers are losing significant market share year after year, replaced by cheaper drivers from Eastern Europe.

In addition, some long-distance haulage in the Czech Republic has gradually moved over to rail in recent years, said.