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Can free buses boost economies?

Wednesday, May 14, 2014 - 01:37

May 15 - The Polish town of Zory is to introduce free public transport in a bid to boost the economy. Hayley Platt looks at how removing commuting costs could help the town's overall prosperity.

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Commuting in the small Polish town of Zory has just become less painful. Delays are still possible but the buses are now free - for everyone. Zory has 60,000 residents - until now pensioners have had to pay too, despite many living on only a few hundreds euros a month. (SOUNDBITE) (Polish) ZORY RESIDENT, DOROTA MARYNIAK, SAYING: "I have to see my doctor regulatory, so free public transport is a very good idea. It is also good for mothers with children who are being driven to school or nursery." (SOUNDBITE) (Polish) ZORY RESIDENT, HENRYK SNEGON, SAYING: "As a former railway worker I have a very small pension. So free transport is a very good solution for elderly people. We'll be able to go out more now." The town's hoping there will be environmental benefits by encouraging residents to leave their cars at home. Zory's mayor says he also hopes it will encourage people to work and study, boosting the economy. (SOUNDBITE) (Polish) ZORY MAYOR, WALDEMAR SOCHA, SAYING: "We have realized that if we don't do anything, the tickets will become ever more expensive, staff bonuses will grow but the number of passengers will decline." The current fleet of buses is being modernised and timetables changed. But how can the town afford it? (SOUNDBITE) (Polish) CIVIL INFRASTRUCTURE ADVISOR, BRONISLAW PRUCHNICKI, SAYING: "Public transport isn't a big portion of our budget. Some towns spend 3.5 percent - while we spend only 1.5 percent. Those with big costs who cannot make many changes to their fleets may find it difficult." Even so the mayor says he's received dozens of calls from other Polish towns keen to know more. And visitors take note - all non-residents can travel free too.

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Can free buses boost economies?

Wednesday, May 14, 2014 - 01:37