A passenger operating a card reader before entering the platform area at Ruoholahti in Helsinki in January 2023. Helsinki Region Transport’s (HSL) board of directors is calling for an eight-per-cent increase in public transport fares, citing cost pressures arising from infrastructure projects, the looming value-added tax rise and declining passenger volumes. (Jussi Nukari – Lehtikuva)

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THE BOARD of Helsinki Region Transport (HSL) on Wednesday proposed to its member municipalities that public transport fares be increased by an average of eight per cent at the beginning of 2025.

The price of a journey across two zones could as a result rise from 2.95 to 3.19 euros and that of a two-zone 30-day ticket from 66.60 to 71.93 euros.

The board argued that the fare hike is necessary because the value-added tax imposed on public transport services will rise from 10 to 14 per cent on 1 September, as per a decision by the government of Prime Minister Petteri Orpo (NCP). It also pointed to a decline in passenger numbers caused by the pandemic-driven shift to remote and hybrid ways of working.

Costs of the joint municipal authority have also increased due to projects to build up public transport infrastructure, such as the construction of a depot in Ruskeasuo, Helsinki, and Jokeri Light Rail, Vesa Silfver, the acting managing director at HSL, pointed out in an interview with YLE on Wednesday.

Overall, he said, infrastructure costs are increasing by around 50 million euros.

The fare hike is set to be implemented only a year after the authority slashed fares. Silfver stated to the public broadcasting company that he does not know all the details behind the decision to slash fares as he did not take up his current position until later. He revealed, though, that the value-added tax increase alone will necessitate a fare hike of six per cent.

Silfver added that also other policy decisions are putting upward pressure on fares, such as the elimination of the climate-based state subsidy for public transport.

HSL, in fact, is under pressure to raise fares by more than eight per cent, but it determined that eight per cent is a raise that neither drives away too many users nor undermines its effort to increase public transport uptake to record levels.

“Eight per cent is our attempt to strike a balance,” he said to YLE. “If we didn’t hike up fares, the municipal contributions would have to increase more.”

The fare hike is part of the economic plan of HSL. Member municipalities of the joint authority – Espoo, Helsinki, Kauniainen, Sipoo, Siuntio, Tuusula and Vantaa – have an opportunity to comment on the plan until the end of August.

Matias Pajula (NCP), the board chairperson at HSL, stated to Helsingin Sanomat on Wednesday that he believes the hikes will likely be instituted.

“HSL’s fares have fallen significantly behind the consumer price index in the past few years, meaning that relatively speaking the fares have declines,” he wrote in a text to the daily newspaper, adding that the proposed hike will not restore the fares on par with consumer prices in general.

“I don’t think you can talk about record-breaking hikes.”

Aleksi Teivainen – HT

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