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Wednesday 19.06.2019 | Name days: Nils, Viktors
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NP: are UGF and Harmony doing some scheming in Jurmala?

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Baltic news, News from Latvia, BNN.LV, BNN-NEWS.COM, BNN-NEWS.RUOwners of Jurmala resident card are to be provided with free public transport services starting from 1 June. Until now such benefits have been provided to only some resident groups. Jurmala, it seems, has decided to become the second city in Latvia after Rezekne that will carry its residents for free, as reported by Nekā personīga.

Residents welcome this proposal, because it helps reduce their expenses. At the same time, taxpayer money ensures business for the carrier. The programme also reports that Jurmala is repeating the scheme once realized in Riga, where the passenger carrier and smart-card service provider were connected.

Prior to the last municipal elections one of Gatis Truksnis’ promises was providing free public transport services. Residents re-elected Truksnis in the city council. On 15 March Union of Greens and Farmers and Harmony’s coalition voted in favour of reducing residents’ expenses. In addition to pensioners and students, who already enjoy free tickets, everyone who has a Jurmala resident’s card will be able to use public transport services for free starting with 1 June.

Until now the city council paid approximately one and half million euros a year in grants to the carrier. Carrying everyone for free will cost another half a million on top of that. Tallinn’s experience was used for calculations. Free tickets there convinced 10% of residents to hop from their cars to public transport, NP reports.

Larisa Loskutova, member of Jurmala City Council and chairperson of the Transport and Housing Affairs Committee, says: «Pollution created by cars will reduce, which is a good thing for our city.»

The programme also reports that one and a half years ago former banker Zigmunds Pavlovskis became the sole owner of Jūrmalas autobusu satiksme.

He says he bought the company that has a ten-year contract with Jurmala City Council for a good price.

The job in Jūrmalas autobusu satiksme is not the only one for Pavlovskis. He is also business development director in Rīgas satiksme’s subsidiary Rīgas karte. Aleksandrs Brandavs is a board member there. Brandavs’ business is also associated with Riga City Council’s coalition. His company had once signed a contract with Rīgas satiksme in regards to shuttle-buses. Brandavs formally left passenger carriers to avoid a conflict of interests. Knowledgeable people say that he remains active in the industry, however, NP reports.

When asked if he had consulted with Brandavs before going through with this deal, Pavlovskis said: «I’ll be honest – yes, maybe not as much about the deal itself, rather the details worth keeping in mind when working in this field. It is no secret he has been working in the bus business for a dozen or so years, I think.»

Passenger trips are registered using Jurmala resident’s card. They are issued to pensioners and students. Other declared residents are able to get one if they own real estate in Jurmala. Information from smart cards will be used to calculate grants to cover costs for the carrier. Together with compensation of losses from lengthy bus use and state-financed tickets for invalids, this will make the business safe. The city council had organized a tender for the introduction of smart cards and their maintenance. Participants mentioned that the tender was written specifically in favour of Rīgas karte. Suspicions regarding the price and non-transparency of the entire process were widely reported. Competitors were not off the mark there, the programme reports.

At the end of 2016, development of Jurmala cards was entrusted to BMS Technology – a subsidiary of Rīgas karte. According to NP, when the contract was signed with Jurmala, the owner of BMS Technology Andrejs Blažko had bought two companies (VISMOR and VERNAL) from Aleksandrs Brandavs’ company B-noma with a total investment value of more than two and a half million euros.

Jurmala City Council has signed other contracts with Brandavs’ business partner Blažko on entry fee machines.

Uldis Kromblūms, a member of Jurmala City Council from the New Conservative Party, comments the situation: «I was born in Jurmala. In my time I have rented buses from previous owners for the needs of my association. As far as I know, the owner had no plans to let go of this business. I cannot say how he was convinced, but I think everything there is connected, this matter’s approval, Rīgas karte and associated matters. We have no idea how much we could lose or gain from it.»

When asked by NP in regards to his involvement, Jurmala’s Mayor Gatis Truksnis denied his involvement in the choice of the business partner. «He relied on his employees to prepare the tender and contract. He asked us to not look for any schemes where there are none. He says he is not aware if the city council ends up paying too much for passenger transport services,» the programme reports.


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