The government has commissioned a €518,000 study – centred on Nicosia – which will help it plan and assess how to best spend large chunks of the €174 million at its disposal to overhaul urban mobility.

The major funding boost has been made available by the EU – as part of the pandemic recovery package – so that Cyprus can implement trams, bus lanes, park and ride systems and a series of other measures to wean the public off its near exclusive use of private cars.

The overarching and stated aims are to decongest cities, offer more environmentally friendly, safer and diverse alternatives to getting around and doing business – from facilitating pedestrians and cyclists to offering meaningful options rather than just cars.

Transport Minister Yiannis Karousos told the Nicosia Chamber of Commerce (Keve) on Monday that the capital in particular is facing serious urban mobility issues.

“The source of this is mainly as a result of increased car use as a means of transport,” he said.

The minister stated that on November 19 the transport ministry signed a contract with two companies at the cost of €518,000 to help the state implement its ‘Sustainable Urban Mobility Plan’ for Nicosia.

The two companies, Tredit SA and Nama Consulting, are tasked with studying the plan for Nicosia, which will overhaul the grid network.

They must take into consideration the ongoing public works, future stated projects and those which have only recently been completed.

The study will focus on Nicosia while working out how to best connect its historic centre and integrate the surrounding urban sprawl.

Within the first six months of the 20-month contract, the companies are required to report to the state on its projected grid plan, including: bus lanes, optimisation of traffic lights for bus priority, how the network may be converted for a bus rapid transit system (BRT) or even a tram network.

The contract states that proposals must also be made as to which work hours may be adjusted to ease congestion during peak hours.

That has been an idea floated by some which seeks to adjust some of the civil servants’ work hours to avoid traffic jams during the morning and afternoon. Previous attempts to implement this have failed.

The €174m provided to the government will also set out measures to increase electric car uptake and facilities for the vehicles along with wider projects such as park and ride programmes.

Another point is the implementation of technology in the transport sector with “smart systems” – a nod to ‘smart cities’.

As described by the EU Commission, they are: “A place where traditional networks and services are made more efficient with the use of digital solutions for the benefit of its inhabitants and business.

“A smart city goes beyond the use of digital technologies for better resource use and less emissions. It means smarter urban transport networks, upgraded water supply and waste disposal facilities and more efficient ways to light and heat buildings. It also means a more interactive and responsive city administration, safer public spaces and meeting the needs of an ageing population,” the statement reads.