By Peter Stevenson
BUS COMPANIES island-wide have seen a gradual increase in customers with numbers rising significantly during recent months, despite recent increases in fares.
Fares went up on June 16, with a one-way ticket now costing €1.50, up from €1, a weekly ticket €15 (€10) and a monthly ticket €40, up from €30.
University and school students and pensioners now have to pay 50 per cent of the ticket prices and can no longer travel for free.
Zenon buses, Larnaca’s bus company, has seen passengers grow by more than 12 per cent since 2012 according to its general manager Theophanis Demetriades.
He said it was still too early to tell whether the recent fare increases had affected passenger numbers.
“One way single tickets have increased by 50 per cent and monthly tickets have gone from €30 to €40 which are significant increases, but what are the options?” he asked.
Demetriades added that the company will closely monitor the situation and report any problem back to the government.
He revealed that Zenon Buses are currently in serious talks with CyTA to install Wi-Fi hotspots on their buses in order to attract more customers.
“Technology is what we call in management science a ‘hygiene factor’, good to have and possibly attract customers but not decisive enough to take the bus or not,” he explained.
A new route schedule has been created with special attention placed on frequency, network reach, accuracy and matching supply with expected demand of bus seats.
“We hope to provide enough services to persuade people from all walks of life to take the bus to and from work,” he concluded.
Limassol bus company EMEL Christakis Argyrou said he believes figures will not change after the increase.
Argyrou added that since the company began operating in 2010 there has been more than a 100 per cent increase in the number of customers.
“The last few months have seen the number of people using the buses increase even more due to the financial crisis and despite the government increasing the price of tickets, the cost of travelling by bus is still significantly less than by car,” he said.
This view was shared by Nicosia bus company OSEL’s operations manager Iordanis Iordanou.
“People are looking for alternatives and trying to find cheaper options and our buses give them that option,” he said.
Iordanou also said that the increase in price would not affect the number of users as it is still more economical than using a car.
“On average someone needs around €300 a month to run a car and travel to work so by using buses people can save around €250 a month which is a sizeable amount considering the circumstances,” he added.
Iordanou said the number of students and young people using the buses had increased significantly.
Communications Minister Tasos Mitsopoulos blamed high running costs for the increase in bus fares.
“This increase was necessary because of high running costs of the public transport system. A part of these costs, at least, will be covered by the increases in bus fares, which was covered by the government until now,” Mitsopoulos said.
Mitsopoulos also mentioned that changes have been made to routes which have been proven to be more successful and profitable.
“We are trying to support these routes,” Mitsopoulos added.