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Transport minister: Offering alternatives to traffic woes

bus

Transport Minister Alexis Vafeades declined to say whether Cyprus’ traffic problem can be solved, instead saying that the state is offering options to commuters.

“Cars will always be on the roads, there will always be delays, but we have the responsibility to provide alternatives,” the minister said on Monday, as Nicosians awoke to bumper-to-bumper traffic.

Traffic is once again the office talking point in the congested capital, as the end of summer holidays and the first day of schools reopening led to miserable commutes.

Asked during his appearance on Sigma whether Cyprus’ chronic traffic trouble can be solved, he replied that “I believe we can provide [the public] with choices”.

The minister was referencing the park and ride (P&R) system launched last week which has largely caused confusion and drawn negative reaction.

Asked about the lacklustre start to P&R, with seemingly negligible impact on the traffic in Nicosia, the minister said that “we did not expect too much”.

“Alright, the first day there were 20 passengers, but by the second day there were clear improvements with 167 passengers – that’s a big increase and I hope it continues,” he said.

Vafeades believes the benefits of the park and ride system will likely be realised and spread through word of mouth.

But he conceded that the P&R’s current route is not suitable for everyone as it is focused on centres in which there are many offices staffed by workers of a similar profile – such as arrival and departure times.

“Of course, we will expand the network of routes on offer, we will cater other routes towards different groups of workers who also share similar work profiles,” the minister said.

Asked about the new bus lane when entering Nicosia – which was put to him as having created a bottleneck, with the removal of an all-use lane – the minister said that’s not the case.

“There is this impression, but in fact we have added a lane – we have not ‘removed’ a lane. We have removed both buses and taxis from the other lanes, therefore there is a reduction in the overall number of vehicles in the other lanes,” he said.

The minister conceded, however, that the whole issue has rightly caused significant confusion. He attributed the confusion in part to timing: the holiday weekend, along with foreign leaders visiting and heightened police presence on the roads.

As for improving public transport and making it a more appealing option, the “embarrassing” state of bus stops was also put to the minister. Social media posts of primitive bus stops frequently go viral – one recently showed an elderly lady leaning against a metal pole: the bus stop. There is often little to no shelter from the weather or seating available.

“In the coming days we are expecting to be able to announce the contract as to who will place the new and modern bus stops,” Vafeades offered.

He said, however, that the project will take years to complete and has a price tag of €60 million. The project is co-financed by ‘Thaleia’ European regional development fund with 65 per cent and 35 per cent from national resources.

“On the main roads, where there’s a lot of people, we will have them [the new bus stops] very soon – so by 2024, or 2025 at the latest.

The previous government said in August 2022 that the new bus stops were to be installed island wide beginning in 2023.

Vafeades sought to emphasise that many of the more shambolic bus stops are the responsibility of municipalities, which already have the funding made available to them for that purpose.

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