By Poly Pantelides
THE GOVERNMENT has withdrawn a recent Cabinet decision to abolish public transport night buses after deciding the benefits outweighed the disadvantages, Parliament’s communications committee was told yesterday.
The Cabinet announced last week it would abolish night routes for public transportation. Although fares for night buses are more expensive than day fares, they are very popular with school students who use them for free. The government pays the bus companies a fixed rate per kilometre, and the Cabinet said last week it was too expensive to run night routes.
But some lawmakers disagreed with the decision – that was withdrawn before it was implemented – saying it was unfair towards young people relying on buses to get to pubs or night clubs.
“Our young people can come and go on buses, staying safe on the streets,” said one of the MPs that submitted the topic for discussion, EDEK’s Roulla Mavronicola. “I was even told that bus drivers would drop off young people returning to their villages after a night out on their doorstep, showing a sense of care and community.”
Mavronicola said the head of traffic police confirmed that when night routes were introduced, traffic accidents at night were also reduced.
“We have a duty to protect our children, no matter the financial cost, and give them the right to socialise and move about in a safe way,” Mavronicola said.
Opposition MP with AKEL Andreas Fakontis said the government was in the wrong to want to abolish night buses. But he said his party wanted to increase night fares around tourist areas so taxi drivers could have a chance to work.
Fakontis did not clarify what amount would make taxis a more attractive option to the money-conscious tourist but taxi drivers have been long-time protesting what they perceive as unfair competition from buses.
They did the same in parliament yesterday, and had even blocked the main road in the tourist area of Paralimni last week in protest. They were asking buses to change their routes so they could have sole access to the busy Protaras Avenue, just off one of the area’s most popular beach stretches.
They have previously demanded buses raise their fares, run less often, and even drop their night routes. Fares have already recently increased by 50 per cent across the board.