Students and senior citizens will continue to pay for train and bus tickets at a half-price discount. Although the initial draft of the state budget did not include the nearly five billion crowns that the government reimburses transport companies for these discounts, the Ministry of Finance will ultimately have the amount in the budget.
“Agreed within the coalition, we will maintain the 50% discounts,” confirmed Minister of Transport Martin Kupka (ODS).
“The budgetary impact of the discount on fares will be reflected in the draft of the state budget 2024, which the government will approve next week,” added Gabriela Krušinová, spokesperson for the Ministry of Finance.
The Ministry of Finance’s price list also considers the continuation of the discounts. Some voices within the governing coalition have not changed this, calling for greater focus and adjustments to the values.
“We should consider the social aspect. We reject blanket distribution; the state budget is stretched,” stated former Vice-Chairwoman of KDU-ČSL and Senator Šárka Jelínková.
Kupka also recalled that there was already a significant reduction last year when the discounts were lowered from 75% to 50%. According to the Minister of Transport, this saved the state at least 1.8 billion crowns.
Saving in Other Areas
Discounts on fares for pupils, students, and passengers over 65 were introduced by the government of Andrej Babiš (ANO) in 2018. Before the COVID-19 pandemic 2019, the state paid transport companies 5.79 billion crowns for these discounts. Due to the economic shutdowns during the pandemic, the account decreased by over two billion crowns.
According to government plans, the Ministry of Transport should save over six billion crowns in subsidies, and according to the proposal, the overall budget will be reduced by 16 billion crowns next year.
Two of the six billion will be deducted from the amount the state annually sends to regions to repair second and third-class roads.
Central Bohemian Region will shorten the validity of PID tickets from April.
The Ministry also promises to save on operations by increasing the efficiency of the Road and Motorway Directorate and the Railway Administration, as well as by canceling specific agendas and vacant positions, and partly by layoffs of officials.
Kupka would like to find several billion more in the budget of the State Fund for Transport Infrastructure. However, the Ministry will paradoxically borrow for these savings, so it will only be a deferral of expenses.
“The budget of the fund for next year is proposed at roughly the same level as this year, and a loan will cover a part of this amount,” confirmed František Jemelka, spokesperson for the Ministry of Transport.
According to him, the standard possibilities of the state budget are and will be limited, so the Ministry intends to increasingly use alternative sources of financing and build new highways and railways through the PPP method, in cooperation with private companies, as is already the case with the construction of the D4 highway.
“Following the successful transportation model in Poland, we also want to utilize financing through the European Investment Bank,” concluded Jemelka.