Pensioners and students could enjoy traveling by train and bus at a 75% discount on the total ticket price. However, these transport discounts will soon not be valid because the future government of Petr Fiala is planning changes. Martin Kupka (ODS), a candidate for transport minister, confirmed the speculation.
A train from Brno to Prague costs between 54 to 219 CZK. The lower amount is paid by students up to 26 years of age or pensioners over 65 years of age, while passengers pay the higher amount without the right to a discount.
The current discounts were introduced by the government of Andrej Babiš (ANO) in September 2018. Since then, the state has paid over CZK 11.15 billion to carriers for them.
The Ministry of Finance initially calculated a budget impact of CZK 6 billion per year. But the costs were squeezed last year by the coronavirus crisis and restrictions on movement and schools. In 2020, public transport discounts for students and pensioners cost CZK 3.47 billion to the state. Last year, students benefited most from the discounts, with almost 40%. Children and pupils followed this up to the age of 15 with a share of 36.2%. Seniors over the age of 65 used the discounts at a share of 21.5%.
The representatives of the parties in the future government agree that the discounts need to be adjusted. This is a CZK 6 billion hit to the budget. However, no one can yet inform the public how exactly the discounts should look like.
“The discounts will have to be adjusted. When I take office, I will submit a proposal based on the model of further financing of public transport and the impact of the discounts. The model must also assess the impact on the recovery of demonstrable losses from the provision of public transport services. The equation has more variables, “Kupka commented.
But so far, he couldn’t say whether the discount would be reduced or applied to a smaller group of people. “We will address this. I don’t want to prejudge the outcome without necessarily modeling the impact of the discounts on different groups of passengers. You can’t do that without direct insight into the department’s numbers, ” Kupka said.
Jan Bauer (ODS), Vice-Chairman of the Economic Committee, agrees with him. “This is an important topic for discussion. I have criticized the flatness of this measure in the past, and so far, I stand by it. It does not seem right to me to support someone across the board, regardless of their financial or property situation,” Bauer said.
Barbora Urbanová (STAN), a member of the budget committee, feels the same way. “We have always criticized the recklessness of the measures. People who don’t need the discounts also receive them. On the other hand, I am not in favor of immediately abolishing what works in some ways. We expose people to uncertainty when one government does something, and another government immediately cancels it, “the MP explained.
The STAN parliamentary club will be debating what the transport discounts should look like in the future. “I think we will not be in favor of keeping the discount at the same level as now. I would be inclined to make the aid targeted at families in a difficult financial situation because of the housing crisis. It would certainly be possible to involve the regions as well. It will be one of the tasks of the future governing coalition to help those who need it,” Urbanová added.
Vojtěch Munzar (ODS), deputy chair of the budget committee, also favors adjusting the discount. ” My view is that we could go back to the practice that existed before the 75% discount was introduced. Children and students should have discounts on the days they go to school. Public finances cannot afford the discounts at their current level, “Munzar underlined.
The parties were already talking about the need to adjust the discounts before the elections. The coalition of Mayors and Pirates had announced that it would not abolish the discounts altogether but would try to change them.
“Some form of discount is common in most developed countries. However, the government has introduced discounts too hastily, which is why the discount system has fundamental flaws. We, therefore, propose a complete overhaul of fare discounts. We will be based on the single-ticket deals, and we want to retain the 75% discount for year-round tickets only. For single tickets, we want to keep the rate at least 50%, which is the standard level, “the coalition planned before the elections.