Malta has become the latest European country to offer free public transport, making bus services free to use from 1 October, apart from three express routes and its on-demand service. As previously, users will still need to use the Malta Public Transport ‘Tallinja’ smartcard and tap in when boarding so that the bus operator and the authorities can track passenger numbers.
Passengers without the Tallinja card will still have to pay fares. The card requires users to register online, and comes with a €15 fee plus postage, making it less attractive to non-locals.
Malta Public Transport said that inspectors will carry out random checks to verify that passengers have either tapped their card or are in possession of paid-for tickets; those without face a €50 fine if caught without a valid card or ticket; cards are not transferrable. The operator said that it expects the free fare initiative to boost the number of trips and return passenger numbers to pre-pandemic levels. “We are expecting that the measure will see an increase in the number of passenger trips, and by year-end will be very close to those of 2019 which was a record year in relation to patronage,” a spokesperson for Malta Public Transport told local news outlet MaltaToday.
A number of European countries have introduced free or discounted public transport fares schemes since the pandemic, though others already had such schemes in place, including Luxembourg and the Estonian capital Tallinn.