The government will review the discounts introduced by the cabinet for travel by city and intercity bus transport for priority groups such as children and schoolchildren, students and pensioners. The new rules expand the rights of certain groups, but there is also a retreat from reliefs already granted.
This is shown by the review of the proposed changes to the regulation on compensating the preferential travel of individual groups. According to the government, the changes to the document are imperative because the order approved by the Cabinet is effective only until the end of 2023. At the same time, it is debatable how much the new rules will be more beneficial for all groups.
According to the new texts, the right of children to travel free of charge on intercity transport is expanded – currently the cards are free up to the age of 10 (the upper limit was raised by the official cabinet from the previously applied threshold of 7 years), from now on all children will travel for free in the cities children up to 14 years of age. However, the regime worsens for intercity transport. The caretaker government has decided that all children up to 10 years of age will travel for free between settlements instead of children up to 7 years of age. From now on, only transportation up to 7 years of age will remain free, and children between 8 and 14 years of age will pay 50% cheaper than the regular fare.
From January 1, 2024, the concessions enjoyed by older pupils and students will also be reduced. The caretaker government increased the discount for them to 70% – both on intra-city and long-distance lines. Now the cabinet offers students over 14 years of age to travel with a minimum discount of 50% within the city and on intercity lines. According to the proposals of the Denkov cabinet, starting next year, however, the travel discount for people receiving a pension will increase – from 40% of the price under the official government to 50% now. A new group of eligible persons who will benefit from a reduction is also being introduced – people with reduced working capacity of more than 70.99%. For them, the minimum price reduction is 25%.
That part of the regime for preferential travel is deteriorating is also evident from the amount of compensation that municipalities receive per month. The compensations for intra-city transports are different depending on the category of the municipality, but for inter-city transports the rate is general and there is only a threshold for the kilometers traveled. For transports over 10 km. for students under the regime introduced by the caretaker government, the state reimbursed students 64.1 BGN per month. Now this type of compensation is proposed to be BGN 45.
The new rules have been published for public comment and are subject to change. Amendments are foreseen in a number of other texts related to the application of the compensation regime. This will require further changes in the tariffs approved by the municipalities. The introduction of new rules at the official office led to great organizational difficulties.
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