Carlos Miguel, secretary of State for local administration
Carlos Miguel, secretary of State for local administration, says the government is concerned about public transport. Citizens may be too.

Government “concerned about public transport throughout the country”

As elections loom, PS Socialists start ‘raising questions’

Portugal’s secretary of State for local administration has been described today as “expressing concern about whether or not there is regular public transport for the population as a whole.

“It’s good to think about this because, under Article 13 of the Constitution, we are all equal in rights and obligations. And, I would even ask, outside of school transport, is there public transport for most people?” Carlos Miguel was speaking at the opening of the 7th Annual Meeting of Transport Authorities, which is taking place in Castelo Branco, and he raised several questions about access to the public transport service that he left, says Lusa State news agency, “for reflection”.

“The question I am raising is that, apart from the major centres and particularly the metropolitan areas, and even in these, apart from their fringes, is there regular public transport for the population as a whole? Does it reach all citizens or not?”

Perhaps the most surprising aspect of this orational musing is that it comes at all. The lack of public transport, particularly serving rural areas, is a chronic problem in this country. In many ways, it could be said that it is a problem that has contributed to the housing ‘crisis’.

But Carlos Miguel was not going down that road. He was simply wondering out loud.

Says Lusa, he also asked whether there was public transport for the population outside of school transport – and whether this shouldn’t be the other way round, i.e. shouldn’t it be public transport for the population that, at the same time, serves school transport, and not as is currently the case.

“It is school transport that is used to provide public transport to the population, and during school breaks, in much of our territory, there is no public transport at all,” he said.

He also addressed the issue of transport operators.

“Do we have private operators all over the country? From what we see in the tenders, it seems not. And even when there are operators, is there competition between them? In other words, do we have public tenders with three or four operators competing and offering the best price and the best service to that CIM (Intermunicipal Community) or that municipality? Apparently not,” he answered himself.

Faced with all these issues, Carlos Miguel told his audience there are things to rethink. For example, the passenger transport market “is somewhat deregulated”.

“And why is that?” Back to the question/ answer soliloquy routine again: “Because we have fewer operators and less competition between operators. And when that’s the case, we have to create alternatives. Either the State intervenes more actively, not just by subsidising prices, but actively in the supply of transport and thereby maintains the balance, or we will have to find another solution…”

Carlos Miguel went on to say that there are some solutions to think about, namely the creation of a transport network for each CIM, in which this entity creates the network in its wider territory and the existence of a multi-municipal transport system.

“Isn’t this the solution for reaching any and all citizens who live in our territory? I know I’m talking about a paradigm shift. I know that perfectly well. I know it’s not something we can do this year, but life goes on. If the municipalities have a lot of muscle today, the CIMs are starting to need to gain muscle in order to provide a better response to what is lacking in each of their municipalities,” he concluded.

PS Socialists have been in power for eight years now, and the expression ‘paradigm shift’ is well worn. But still basic public services, like transport, are rife with issues.

Lusa’s report did not allude to the response from Mr Miguel’s audience. ND

Source material: LUSA