First the good news. The new bus card (the “tallinja” card*) will mean that for just €26 you can take as many bus trips per month as you like. This is exactly the same price as the existing 30 day card.
So I guess the ‘good news’ is that prices are not going to increase under the new regime, at least not so long as you have a personalised tallinja card, which you can apply for online or at a ticket booth in Valletta or Bugibba or anywhere else you can find one.
(A little side-note here: I applied online, and after initially rejecting me due to my ‘Alien’ status, they fixed the glitches so I was able to register using my Maltese ID card. Now I have to wait until June when they will email/text me to say that my card can be picked up from my local council office).
These cards will have your name and photo on them, and so they cannot be used by or loaned to anyone else.
As most tourists won’t be able to register for this card, does that mean they are going to be forced to pay higher bus ticket prices?
The answer to this question is a definite: “Yes”, but exactly how much more depends on what type of ticket they do buy.
When this system comes into place in July, the only tickets you will be able to buy on the bus are going to cost €2 for a 2 hour journey. There will be no other ticket available on board, no more ‘all day’ or weekly tickets as you can buy at the moment.
Pretty bad news for the tourist then, as they will end up paying €4 per person for most return journeys.
There is an alternative, although it is not being widely advertised by Malta Public Transport at the moment.
You will be able to buy what they are calling ‘Non Personal’ tallija cards at (unspecified) ticketing booths. These cards won’t have your name or photo on them, and so they can be used immediately.
There are 2 types of these ‘Non Personal’ cards:
– A 12 journey card costing €15, and
– A 7 Day ‘Explore’ card which allows you as many trips as you want over a 7 day period, costing €21
I imagine that the bus company aren’t advertising these cards yet because they want residents to sign up to the personalised card scheme before summer.
When Arriva arrived on the scene in 2010, they imposed a system whereby residents could buy tickets at about half the price of non-residents. Following complaints from foreigners and non-residents to the European Commission, the EU intervened to stop the practice, stating that it amounted to “indirect discrimination based on nationality of EU citizens who have used their right to move and reside freely within the Union, and where applicable, their right to receive services, right to free movement of persons and right to free movement of capital under the EU Treaty”.**
What the new bus company are doing is slightly less clear-cut than Arriva’s ham-handed policy, the end result will be more or less the same. Tourists will not have the option to buy the ‘Personal’ tallinja card and so will pay €21 (at best) if they take 2 journeys per day over a 7 day period, whereas the adult resident holding a personalised card will pay the equivalent of just over €6 for the same period.***
If this hypothetical tourist doesn’t get this over-the-counter tallinja card then he could be paying €28 based on 14 journeys over a 7 day period.
Now if you are coming to Malta from Northern Europe, the fact is that a €2 bus fare is not going to seem particularly exorbitant, so maybe the English and German tourists will just shrug and pay up.
However the fact remains that this looks quite similar to the same type of price discrimination which the EU had such a problem with last time. I don’t know, maybe it’s just me.
Somehow I have a feeling that somebody is going to start kicking up a fuss about this soon, so let’s see if there are any more changes before the system goes ‘live’ in July.
Cost of 2 bus journeys a day for 7 days:
– Adult with personalised tallinja card: €6.09
– Adult with non-personalised tallinja card: €21.00 (245% increase)
– Adult without a tallinja card: €28.00 (360% increase)
* Tallinja means ‘bus’ in Maltese, apparently.
You will be provided with a new tallinja card free of charge. If you travel regularly on the bus, the card will automatically cap your spend at €26 for every month. This means that the daily cost will be of just 87c if you travel every day, or €1.24 if you travel by bus on weekdays only.