Minister Yiannis Karousos is promising significant improvements in the public transport sphere in the coming year with more and better roads and smart technology, according to an interview published on Monday.

With the completion of the Nicosia ring road, traffic at the entry to the capital would be reduced by 25 per cent. This should happen by the end of 2023, he said.

Smart traffic lights will start to be installed from next month and staggered timetables would be introduced in the public service and schools at peak hours. The bus system, which is fractured, is also to be further integrated.

It does seem that more journeys have been taken on the buses. Karousos said that in 2012, there were ten million journeys, which increased to 24 million in 2022 although sometimes when politicians use statistics, they tend to cite favourable comparisons.

After all, 2012 was ten years ago. There may now be more journeys by bus but it does not mean it’s because the public, and especially Cypriots, are actually choosing to use them. Cyprus has probably seen a ten-fold increase in migration as well, ergo more bus journeys.

Efforts have been made to improve the buses and the traffic situation in general. However, we are still light years away from the bus being the preference rather than the last resort.

According to Karousos measures going ahead in 2023, will, using the percentages he cited, perhaps reduce traffic flow by around 30 per cent.

The green agenda laid down in the ‘Cyprus Tomorrow’ plan is designed to force a lot of cars off the road, something that is likely to have a much bigger impact due to the penalties and prohibitions in the pipeline before 2030. Extending roads and smoothing out public transport are merely an interim band aid.

If the green measures come in faster than what’s needed to ensure public transport for all, it will create all sorts of problems. Cyprus cannot only be dependent on buses as the alternative to cars.

Whoever the government will be in a few months’ time needs to start acting now on longer-term solutions. According to what Karousos said, a light rail system might be a better bet than trams. However, any such system would also need to service the outlying areas of the main towns and not just become an inter-district service with a focus on ports and airports. Getting to the airport is the least of people’s worries as the existing shuttle service is fairly adequate.

What people need are solutions to get to and from work and not spend hours commuting twice a day, but it looks like it will be some time yet. Even if a decision was taken right away on a rail system, it would probably take a minimum of ten years to build it and that’s the most optimistic of scenarios.