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Our View: Public transport should be a choice, not a punishment

bus station 01

The tale of fights and bad behaviour at some bus stops is yet another sign of the failure of the island’s public transport system and to say police should be at the stops or that bus companies hire private security reflects rather badly on society in general.

We might say that what went on in Ayia Napa, in this particular case, is not a reflection of the entire public transport system but for all the government’s talk about how much things have improved, it remains a fact that only people with no other options are using the buses.

Go to Nicosia’s Solomou Square any day to catch say the bus to Larnaca. Firstly, there is no sign saying it’s the bus to Larnaca because the telematic screen is broken so in true 1980s style a person has to walk in front of the bus to check that it’s the right one. There is no orderly queuing either. There is pushing and shoving to get on and not only by rowdy young people. Inevitably some people are left behind to wait another hour for the next bus.

When people go to an airport, they know the rules. They see a cordon, literally fall in line and wait their turn.  There is no reason why at least some bus stops, and especially bus terminals, cannot employ a similar queuing system.

Aside from that, the government never tires of talking about its plans for public transport from bus lanes to cycle lanes to ‘smart’ systems to park-and-ride. The Recovery and Resilience plan is full of it, page after page.

But in reality, no one is going to cycle to work for an hour or get on the bus unless there is a direct route to their workplace or unless, again, they have no other choice, even if it means changing buses.

While all these piecemeal grand plans are being spoken about, millions upon millions are still being spent expanding the road network to facilitate car travel. So all the government is really offering is car travel or bus travel and if they continue to try and make things easier for motorists, no one will opt to use the bus.

Main European cities offer people a real choice. Most by now have light-rail systems, usually electric, or underground or overground metro systems, plus buses. In other words, they offer the public a choice.

There was talk some ten years ago about creating a light-rail system but the recovery plan doesn’t mention this.  It would be an ideal solution for Cyprus in combination with park-and-ride to link the main towns and service the bigger suburbs in between.

With the energy crisis, more people will be looking for ways to leave their cars at home, and with no other option but the bus, things could get much worse for our already-ailing public transport system.

Public transport is something people should choose to use because it suits their circumstances. It should not be a punishment for lack of options.

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