Student body PSEM on Wednesday warned of ‘dynamic measures’ unless the government immediately reduce bus fares as promised
The students and parents said they were shocked on Tuesday when they went to buy monthly tickets, expecting them to be reduced to €10 as pledged by the transport minister, but instead they were charged €15 for the month of March.
A statement from PSEM said they were told there had not been enough time to print the monthly cards with the €10 fare and that it would become effective from April 1.
“I went to give my son his €10 and only found out minutes later,” said one mother . “It’s an outrage”.
The students and parents do not want to pay anything for the bus fares and have been holding protests on and off since the beginning of the year. During an abstention from classes last week, they were promised by Transport Minister Tasos Mitsopoulos that the best he could do was to reduce the controversial fare from €15 to €10. Vulnerable groups were to be exempted but the compromise has proved just as unpopular.
PSEM said no one was official informed of the change of date. The student body also said that at this stage it was a pointless exercise even if the fare came down next month because two weeks of that time would be taken up by the Easter holidays so students would end up paying €10 for two weeks. Two weeks after that, on May 16, schools would be closing. “So we will end up paying €20 for two half months,” the statement said.
However, the €10 fare does cover the students for fares outside of school journeys, which was part of the compromise.
“We expect the House communications committee to call on the government to keep its promises and to account for yesterday’s (Tuesday’s) farce. After the day-long abstention from classes last week, we expect the reaction from the state and depending on developments, we will not hesitate to take dynamic measures. Do not push us over the cliff,” the statement concludes.
The Pancyprian Coordinating Committee for the Technical Schools Parents Association also expressed their disappointment saying the mockery being made of students and parents was never-ending.
Last week Mitsopoulos said the students were essentially asking for water from a well that had dried-up. He said 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.
He had promised his ministry would also examine the revenue it has received by July to see whether the more cuts to the fares could be made .
Yesterday he said: “Issuing new cards and tickets is a time consuming procedure. Printing them at the government printing office and distributing them to the bus companies will take up to three weeks. Due to recent political developments the cabinet couldn’t make a decision on the matter in time so we postponed enforcing the new fee until April,” he said.
He was referring to developments in the Cyprus problem, the SGO privatisation debate in the House and the departure of DIKO from the coalition.
Mitsopoulos said there was a mechanism in place at every school to identify students who cannot afford to pay the fare. These cases can be dealt with efficiently by school officials he said.
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.