The government made a bold move today by approving free rail transport for children, students (under 26) and pensioners, as part of its 15-point programme aimed at boosting the quality of life of the most vulnerable groups.
The free train rides (2nd class), will apply to only certain lines starting on 17 November, a nice touch as it just so happens to be the 25th anniversary of the Velvet Revolution. Minister of transport Jan Pociatek said the EUR 13 million or so to cover the special allowance has already been charged to next year’s budget.
Students, children and the elderly will be able to enjoy the free transport on all trains operated by the state-run passenger rail operator ZSSK as well as the line between Bratislava and Komarno operated by RegioJet, as it is subsidised by the state. The new measure doesn’t cover trains that are not subsidised by the state, which means all the Intercity (IC) and Eurocity (EC) trains, for instance.
A sticking point for children is that a ticket has to be bought if they are aged between 6-15, but it costs nothing if presenting a pre-issued card. Children under six don’t need a ticket at all. Students have to show their student card and pensioners some proof of age.
With recently published figures claiming a 20% rise in passengers since this scheme was launched perhaps the political elite should consider what the long term effect of this move may have on the country as a whole.
While granny or large family groups can regularly take a free ride from their rail served village to enjoy the benefits of a more comprehensive and cheaper selection of shopping options in neighbouring towns and cities, the local village stores will see their takings drop substantially, probably to a point where they are no longer viable. When this scheme ends, and be under no illusion, it will, those same people who had limited choice for shopping will find themselves with none as basic amenities disappear from rural areas. The damage to bus services is currently assessed as being around 2%, what the figure will be once the weather improves will be anyone’s guess but even a 2% cut in the operators margin could see some bus services disappearing.
The end result of this scheme could be the reduction of some rural communities to little more than dormitory or holiday areas with the indigenous, ageing population left with no amenities and no transport options. Anyone with any doubt about this concern should read how poorly thought out Government transport policies destroyed rural communities in the UK.
I finf it funny how students are the ones complayining .. before they complained about hight traveling cost etc .. now you have this solved.
I am not eligible for free travel but I also don´t need the extra money so I gladly pay and support our future in this way 😉 For some families with 2-3 traveling children this can save more than 100 € monthly.
In the end the amount paid from budget is really ridiculously small… Few busses may be cancelled so what, situation changes so will market adapt to it. This sshould cost around 40-50 million €a year I think it´s better than those aids to foreign companies where hundreds of millions fly around without any benefit for the public. If more money would be invested in public services this way rather than pumping it to some foreign companies who also avoid paying taxes it wuld be much better.
The real problem is not free trains .. but he situation in EUROPE that some companies huge international corporatons have a huge advantage in cost – they pay very small taxes in some cases no taxes at all. THe new EU commisioner know a lot about it with his Luxembourgh friends .. there are billions of € leaking the budgets. But free travel is simply a must for students and the very least a nation can do for the young ones.
I am not a SMER supporter in reality I am quite the oposite as I have my own business and see the errors that are done in government and feel the tax changes more han any student but I must support this idea because it is more beneficial than it costs me. I pay a lot of taxes if things like this should be paid from that so be it better than supporting some rich foreigners that don´t give a cent back ..
I am probably more a Socialist than BnM and Co will ever be, and I support the notion of “subsidised” transport for those of limited means. However, this policy does not address this or even come close. Many, by no means all, pensioners are the Nouveau Rich and have a higher disposable income than many struggling working families so why their tax contributions should be used to subsidise those who pay no tax, irrespective of income, is beyond me. On the issue of the students, how come mid week when one would assume students would be hard at their studies are the trains crammed full of them? Playing truant? or are student cards another area for the counterfeiters?. By all means offer free or cheap travel to the truly needy but at least limit it to Off-Peak services. It’s ridiculous that workers can not commute to work and get a seat that they have paid for on trains full of free-loaders.
What was wrong with the 50% discount for students and 70% for pensioners? I find it hard to believe that my ticket price will not rise to make up for this. You little petty politicians!
And the sheep will think its the greatest gift ever.
After election, charge will be double? ;p
Votes for sale!, Votes for sale !. I spy somebody who wants to stay in power! Where has the 13mil come from – tax payers money. Never seen anyone so free and easy with other folks’ cash.