12 October 2005


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Business Today



Buses, minibuses claim ‘disastrous’ effects of fuel hikes

Karl Schembri

Owners of buses and minibuses are facing an uphill climb in the wake of the latest fuel price hikes, with public transport bus owners claiming the rise in diesel will mean an extra Lm2.16 per day for every vehicle.
The President of the Public Transport Association, Victor Spiteri, told Business Today that the cost for bus drivers has risen to Lm30 a day with last week’s fuel price hike, which saw the price of diesel going up by 3c to 41c8 a litre.
The price increases came right in the middle of sensitive, high-level bi-weekly discussions between the association and the Transport Authority to revamp public transport, possibly compromising the end of November deadline set by Transport Minister Jesmond Mugliett.

“We will be sending a detailed report about the new costs to the authority by the end of this week,” Spiteri said. “Definitely we cannot make any further losses, with fuel prices going up every three months. Government will either have to raise the fares or increase the subsidies,” Victor Spiteri said.
The discussions about public reform have so far taken into account the old fuel prices, Spiteri said, although the costs of a reformed service still had to be calculated.
“Government still has to decide what kind of system and reforms it wants to go for, so costs and expenses have still to be drawn up, but I’ve always been sceptical about the November deadline,” Spiteri said.
Even the owners of minibuses say they are in a crisis, after trying to absorb the fuel increases for the past months.
“We can’t absorb the fuel hikes any longer, but even raising fees is going to affect us very badly,” said the Chairman of the Minibuses Cooperative, Charles Mercieca. “We’re really faced by a disaster. Trips to private schools and factories are getting worse; patrons are diminishing with every price increase.”
He said that one of the biggest private schools which had 70 per cent of its students using minibuses ended up with only 30 per cent over the last five years, while factories kept cutting down on workers’ transport.
“For parents whose children go to school, and employers, transport is the only thing they can do without, so our patrons are going down all the time,” Mercieca said. “Now if you go outside a school you can see private cars pooling and taking up to 10 students in what would supposedly be a four-seater.”
The minibuses cooperative is also concerned about the steep rise in insurance fees – a dispute which so far remains unsolved.
The ministry for IT and investments said last week that international fuel prices in the third quarter of the year remained consistent with the trend of the past months and continued to rise due to global market pressures of increasing global demand for fuels and tight supply.

kschembri@mediatoday.com.mt



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