Malta Public Transport received just under €70 million in payments from its sole client – the Maltese Government – in 2023, a major increase over the €42.8 million it received in 2022 and the €36.3 million it received in 2021.

The bulk of the change is likely attributable to the Government’s decision to make buses free for holder of the Tallinja card – that is, practically, all residents – as from October 2022, making 2023 the first full year of free bus rides in Malta.

The scheme has been hailed as a major success, significantly increasing the number of bus passengers from 49.6 million in 2022 to 67.3 million in 2023, as per a Transport Malta press release from January 2024 which described the number as “unprecedented”.

The National Budget for 2023 (released in October 2022) had allocated €40 million to cover the public service obligation and an additional €14 million to cover the free bus ride scheme for Tallinja card holders.

These estimates make up €54 million – considerably less than the €69.4 million actually paid, according to information tabled in Parliament by Transport Minister Chris Bonett.

This newsroom reached out to both Malta Public Transport and Transport Malta to ask whether the discrepancy is related to the better-than-expected success of the free ride scheme, since the operator claims payments from the Government according to the number of trips made.

The 2024 Budget allocates notably larger amounts to the bus operator that are more in line with the actual spend for 2023 than to the initial estimates. During 2024, the Government expects to pay Malta Public Transport €49 million for the public service obligation contract and a further €25 million for the free bus ride scheme.

Malta Public Transport (MPT) is a private company that entered the local market in 2014 after previous operator Arriva left Malta with its reputation in tatters amidst “an unmitigated disaster”.

MPT, which has now operated Malta’s buses for the last decade, is a subsidiary of Spanish firm Autobus de León, part of ALSA Group. ALSA Group is itself part of Mobico Group, a British multinational transport company active in the UK, Ireland, the United States, Canada, Portugal, Germany, Bahrain, Morocco, and of course Spain and Malta.

While Transport Malta sets the routes and the minimum frequency of buses, MPT is responsible for the network’s operations, including bus driver engagement and training, as well as for the buses themselves.

On Wednesday (yesterday), it announced an €8 million investment in 30 new buses (pictured above) to meet increased demand.

Featured Image:

Is-Servizz Pubbliku / Facebook

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