By Peter Stevenson
TAKING part in the protest outside parliament yesterday were students from secondary and technical schools whose gripe is with the transport ministry’s decision to reduce student bus fares to €10 from €15 instead of abolishing them.
Head of student body PSEM, Panayiotis Monoyios said that students were protesting because at the very least, not all vulnerable groups were exempt from paying bus fares.
He expressed his displeasure that the decision to reduce the fares from €15 to €10 was decided by the Cabinet without consulting the students.
Transport Minister Tassos Mitsopoulos said that students were essentially asking for water from a well that had dried-up.
“Any possibilities of finding another solution have been exhausted because the funds are quite simply not available,” he said.
Mitsopoulos explained that the government was taking a big hit itself by reducing the fees from €15 to €10 and that it would struggle to cover the money it had expected to rake in as part of the original fees.
“Where will we get the money? By cutting the salaries of the bus company employees? When I asked the various groups how we were supposed to come up with a solution they told me ‘it’s your job’,” the minister said. “To make statements and demands without suggesting an alternative is very easy.”
Mitsopoulos said his ministry would examine the revenue it has received in July to see whether the government could make more cuts to the bus fares.
Secondary school students who take school buses had to start paying the new fares in January of this year.
The fare, formerly subsidised in full by the state, was introduced by the previous government in a December 2012 but implementation was pushed back from October 2013 to January 2014 in the face of severe public pressure.
The €15 monthly fare came in amid heavy criticism and warnings of retaliatory measures from both students’ and parents’ associations, forcing the government to reduce it to €10 but the compromise has been just as unpopular.