Public transport needs stable funding schemes to deliver public targets

By: Chris Smith

At the meeting of the European Union Committee of the International Association of Public Transport (UITP) in Krakow this month,

At the meeting of the European Union Committee of the International Association of Public Transport (UITP) in Krakow this month, European public transport operators issued an urgent call to political decision makers to earmark income from energy taxes to the development of alternative and energy-efficient transport modes, in particular public transport.

At a time of rising oil prices politicians are under more and more pressure to cushion the impact of these increases.

The urgent need for a longer-term shift to more sustainable forms of economic and social activities –including transport - has become unavoidable. Indeed many citizens have already adapted their mobility behaviour by increasingly using public transport.

This trend of rising passenger numbers - already observed for some years as a response to higher congestion and pollution levels in urban areas - is now being reinforced by high fuel prices.

Despite the increasing operational costs for public transport operators, ticket prices as well as the required service levels (frequency, quality, etc) are determined by the responsible authorities. In addition public budgets to support public transport services are falling.

The additional fare box revenue from higher passenger numbers does not cover marginal costs, as many public transport systems have already reached or will soon reach maximum capacity, particularly at peak time.

This clearly points to the need to expand public transport. For this, the sector urgently requires long-term, stable funding for investment in additional capacity and operation. This is a prerequisite for continuing to deliver the public targets set by authorities.

"Politicians have to accept their responsibility and provide adequate funding for their goals," says Guido del Mese, Chairperson of UITP’s EU Committee.

"For a long time, we have advocated that taxes be earmarked for the benefit of public transport, such as a part of the revenue governments receive from fuel taxes. The current context of massive increases in oil prices reinforces the appropriateness of this proposal. We therefore once again call on governments to earmark funds for the development of alternative, more energy-efficient transport modes, in particular public transport."

Due to the very low energy consumption per passenger compared with individual motorised transport (3-10 times less), the promotion of public transport is a very effective strategy to reduce oil dependency, GHG emissions, congestion, road accidents, as well as local pollutants.

"The industry needs a long-term focus on policies at all levels of government, leading to a stable legal, administrative and financial environment in which public transport operators can plan and properly organise their services. This is essential for public transport to be able to fulfil its role and for society to reap the benefits of increasing accessibility for all, including those who don’t own a private car," del Mese says.

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