The first phase of a major shake-up of Majorca's public transport service was put into action yesterday with the launch of the first rural railway station bus links. The first of the new services will link the village of Alaro with the railway station at Consell, but eventually the new railway-bus links will be introduced up and down all of the island's railway lines with public transport users being able to travel on a single ticket. Balearic Transport Minister, Francesc Quetglas, used the launch of the new pioneer service yesterday to remind the public that over the next four years, 32.431.00 euros is to be spent on the region's public road transport service with a further 21 million euros to be invested on improving public transport infrastructure, such as railway and bus stations, signs and the introduction of new information services. To mark “public transport week” Quetglas also unveiled the local government's intention to make some 11 million euros per year available in the form of grants and subsidies to transport companies with public service contracts wishing to increase its frequencies and operate new routes. The Minister is confident that the incentives will lead to a 23 per cent increase in frequencies and a nine per cent increase in the number of kilometres covered each year by Majorca's fleet of buses. Quetglas explained that while the government is looking to increase the bus-railway services, the network of “a la carte” bus services in rural areas is also to be vastly expanded. The first of such services was introduced in Puigpunyent at the start of last month and has proved very popular, just as yesterday's first bus links from Alaro to Consell station did. But while the public transport network is expanded, Quetglas wants to gradually renew the island's fleet of buses. While Palma's is brand new, the average age of buses operating across the island is 12 years old and, by the year 2006, the government wants to reduce the average age to eight years. The Balearic government is prepared to help finance as much as 20 per cent of the cost of purchasing new buses and offer 100 per cent financing packages to local transport companies prepared to adapt their buses for the disabled while repainting their fleet's body work with the new colours and image of the new TIB Balearic Transport Corporation.

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