So far the Balearic government's attempts to encourage more people to use public transport have failed to make much of a difference, but the government yesterday unveiled a new campaign to change the public's travelling habits. At the moment just five per cent of the population use public transport but the government's plan is to have 25 per cent of the population using public transport by the year 2006. The Minister for Public Works, Francesc Quetglas, unveiled the government's new transport policy yesterday morning and it will be put into action in September. “In an island of 3.500 square kilometres with a standing population of 700'000, which doubles in the summer, the island can not be expected to cope with 95 per cent of the population travelling by car,” Francesc Quetglas said, with Balearic President Francesc Antich in full agreement. Quetglas admitted that the project is ambitious but “possible” and will involve all members of the transport sector “working in the interests of the general public.” An annual budget of 11.200.000 euros has been approved for the project and over the next five years, 21 million euros will be invested in public transport infrastructure. The minister explained that for the project to work, the public has to be made to realise that quality services are being provided which is why the government will be investing in more buses and plans to increase the number of kilometres covered by public buses per year in Majorca from 98.000 to 1.5 million. The main aims are to improve the quality of life, improve municipal public transport connections and make the services cost effective. The project will involve the railway, urban and rural bus services which will be brought together under one roof and eventually on to one single roving ticket. A special public transport consortium will be created in the short term to oversee new rural routes, such as Galilea to Puigpunyent. In the long term, commuter shuttle services will connect railway stations with all the nearby villages and special fast bus services will be introduced, the first being Alaro to Consell. Antich said that the time has come to put a freeze on enlarging the region's network of roads but instead make full use of the roads we have by enlarging and improving public transport. “The only way of easing traffic congestion is to provide the public with a viable alternative to using their cars and that is public transport,” Antich said. “And all the parties involved are fully aware of the need for co-operation in order to revolutionise Balearic public transport,” he added.

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