Public transport, determined to provide security and innovation

Speech of Prime Minister Edi Rama at today’s plenary session:

First, I would like to apologize for the absence of some ministers, who have a special reason for not being here, because they are part of a joint program of a team created at Harvard University to especially assist Albanian Government in special issues of economy and social services. Lack of presence in parliament is not in the line of conduct of this Government. Until today, I have never missed a meeting without a reason and as a rule I enter this building at quarter to ten together with Speaker of Parliament and wait for you to come.

Later on, after gathering one hour late you misuse your time and place here by respecting no rules, no procedures, no ethic standards and above all no certain logic that could bring together  people united under the same roof. As certain logic must unite debate between you and us here, despite different views.

Therefore, I agree with the remarks about the rules, in concrete case about absences, but before demanding explanations of me, before demanding explanations of anything else, please make sure at least that for what you demand explanations to be in order yourselves. Actually, this is your biggest problem; you demand explanations of what not only often do not even know what you are talking about, but even when you are aware of what you are asking for you act as if you do not know. When normally you had 8 years of time to do it. But you have not only failed to do it, but also have let it degenerate into a free fall or destroyed it with your own hands.

The case of public transport is very significant and clearly testifies all these together. It shows that when you speak here you do not have even the slightest idea of what you are talking about. Because in 8 years you never worried to take care about citizens, the elderly, children, women, the sick people who travel everyday across Albania. From 2005 until 2013, in the streets of “Albania, a development country” have died 2952 persons and thousands and thousands have been injured. What have you done? I know the answer “roads, roads, roads”. You have organized also some shows by coming out in the streets to place the famous one policeman per kilometre. You have done this too. Actually, it is true that you have spent a lot of money on road infrastructure and have built in Albania the most unsafe system, the most non-qualitative with the poorest road signs and most unfriendly road system for the environment. And of course, when it comes to your taste, also the ugliest aesthetically road system in Europe and region, absolutely even with the tremendous lane of corruption in each road and terrible debt wholes in each segment of unfinished road construction sites. Today, you dare speak and do not stop talking when you see us cope with the systematization of the uncompleted roads, like the nearest road from here – Tirana-Elbasan road. You have built such a cement wall around the park thick as the size of the sidewalk, while the sidewalk has the width of the thickness of the wall. Imagine the picture of a family going to the park with the husband walking ahead with the wife coming behind him and children walking on the wall. This is your vision for the pedestrian. But let us forget the pedestrians for a moment, because this is a separate question and talk about travellers. Let us focus on families of today, which in the XXI century, in 2014, in the heart of Europe, travel across Albania. It is clear that those you have abandoned in the roads of survival for years – without rule of law because laws do not guarantee fair competition, reliable technical control, stations, directions – seem like the supporters that suddenly fell for you from the sky for the next week rally, where you will hold the ritual of requiem in fight against communism that survives only in the head of one of your heads.

You left public transport in Albania in its worst situation ever.

And today, you want to have political gains from the whole where you have drowned major and small entrepreneurs in this sector, same as you drew in the whole those who used to tell you : “Build along Lana because Lana is the first artery of Balkan Switzerland”. But, what do you tell them? What is your offer? What is your solution, while blaming Government for every accident registered on your uncompleted roads? Zero! Zero, zero, arguments. Even no logic. You have built a public transport system as if Albania was an out of control suburb area of Bangladesh.

This field, ladies and gentlemen, is not only just one of the numerous in the reality of this country. The public transport field is the supporting field with the highest imaginable influence in economic and social development of the country. If we are in this bad situation today regarding public transport, one of the main reasons is the bad situation in which you left this country in all aspects. If we are in such bad situation today in the economic and social life of the country, one of the reasons is the bad situation where you left the public transport. We will not close our eyes and watch nor hesitate to undertake the necessary measures to deeply transform public transport in Albania – urban, inter-urban and international transport

The fundamental reason of public transport is the passenger, isn’t he? I am asking this rhetorical question to remind you that when you speak it’s obvious that exactly this fundamental reason – the traveller – does not even cross your mind. What is the quality of service for passenger today? Today, the traveller demands security. Is the public transport in Albania secure? Thus, we want to have this security in this sector. The traveller today wants innovation in this sector. Is public transport in Albania innovated? The traveller today wants progress. Does this kind of public transport enable any progress? Thus, we want progress in public transport, because we want progress in Albania.

Allow me to take it in a good order : – There is only person here whose renaissance is secure, but he depends on another person. And when this person is missing there is no renaissance. When he will come, man is reborn in this hall. But, our renaissance has a long-term deadline.

First, public transport in the city. The example is very simple for those who have been in Tirana in 2000. Do you remember the Tirana of 2000? Let me recall it for you. Thousands of vans driving around in each street and artery. Thousands of vans. Do you see Tirana today? Actually, you are right not to see it today. Do not see it. But, what happened in Tirana is that the 8+1 van transport service was not registered as an urban transport service but was considered a taxi service, as it works today. But , this measure created the opportunity to establish an urban service of European standards. Today, there exists an open issue. I believe Parliament will solve this open issue in the upcoming sessions, when will discuss the Government project for what we have demanded also when we were in opposition or when headed the Tirana Municipality, regarding ticket price. The ticket price issue must be a responsibility of local government, according to each municipality and based on standards and opportunities offered by this service, opportunities of this service to be developed and relation that Municipality creates with this service. It cannot be that the entire decision-making of this process – in line also with the nature of this service : municipal or with private operators – belongs to municipality, whereas the ticket price is defined by Government. This has been unfair then. We have demanded a solution for it and you kept it on hostage. Today. We will set it free and every municipality can take its own decision.

Second, regarding also transport system in the city. I will get to the inter-urban also, be patient. I listen to you, despite what I hear, and again I listen to you and again I will listen to you. But be patient, because this is a process of coming down to earth for you. I understand. You are on your way to coming back to earth.

People in need: We have inherited a mess that cannot be found in any other European or region country. We have registered an apocalyptic number of the disabled and have registered as disabled all kinds of supporters, who were not able to get a job, because you had turned the entire administration into an employment office. Therefore, re-registration, cleaning of the scheme to divide those really in need from those who take the money of people in need, unfairly, as well as to register the real disabled persons has started. This will also enable the functioning of policies for people in need in public transport system in reality and not only on paper and as a source of misuse of money.

Next: It is scandalous that you address that group whom you lied to again today. Because none has neither given an order nor blocked any 8+1 licensed vehicle until the time of speaking, and none has even had the intention to block any of them up to the moment of the restructuring of this sector. None! But the problem here in this case is clear: you cannot take Tirana as an example. It is impossible for you because you do not know where your head is, because one head of yours is on one side of the city and one head is on the other side and on the other side you left Tirana without a head, using two heads for DP.

There are three aspects regarding 8+1 vehicles:

First aspect is with license or without license? The underway police action that will not stop is blocking vehicles without license.

Second problem is related to go and return service. Of course you do not know everything, but you know also even less than what you think you know, therefore, listen to me to get to know something. Go and return problem. Vans, taxi means of transport, are licensed by municipality of commune. The municipality and the commune do not have the right to license means for urban inter-city service, don’t’ they? This is clear. Meanwhile, on the other side the law is clear, it is not something I say and think, it is just something written in the law and this entire process is raised on this basis. It is for sure that every mean of transport today, 8+1 van, operates and can operate as many operate daily from one city to the other and it is also for sure that law does not allow it to move from one city to the other and leave passengers that have taken and to take others and drive them to the city of origin, because it violates a framework defined by the license. Meaning that you are ready and it is not a problem for you to create a conflict – if Korca vans arrive in Tirana and bring passengers and then stop here and take passengers, what would Tirana vans do to go to Korca? They cannot go. This is the same as in the world, this is defined the in the Albanian law and takes no discussion. On one way is full, while the return is empty, because this is not an inter-urban service. This is a taxi service.

Of course, as long as you did nothing to establish rule of law based on existing legal framework in this system and everything you did for transport was by looking at it from the air to seize the sky for a monopoly, that is why we are in such a situation, where vans have practically taken the illegal law of inter-urban service and normal inter-urban service as in the entire would cannot be developed. Moreover, many bus line companies have declared bankruptcy. It is normal for such conditions.

What needs to be done? The entire system must be re-organized. How will it be re-organized? First, those without a license, wherever caught will be punished according to the law and this is a request of those with licenses, but you cannot hear this request because you are afraid of losing any of them for your rally. You consider them a cannon fodder, as always. Of course, this is you. But you cannot do this anymore. This is your problem and this is what you are shouting.

Those with license will have their time to make a choice. It will be the case when they want to operate as a taxi service, i.e. inter-urban taxi service and not inter-city urban service – which are two different things – but I cannot explain here today all these. Therefore, based on choice we will meet the standards of Europe where we want to be integrated. Meanwhile, others, who will make the other choice, will be able to operate with a license in the respective area defined in the license.

Certainly, we will transform public road transport in two stages, because we cannot tell those who live in communes not to use the vans but buses, because “Albania, a developed country” that you left does not offer infrastructure for buses in every commune. But, on the other side, whoever will operate within a territory defined in its license will do it for a defined and mid-term period – I think 10 year or I don’t know. This would depend on the way of coordination of general infrastructure with transport system – but it cannot operate outside the license territory.

In this aspect, if you want the best for all these people, which to tell the truth I do not believe and I cannot believe it because you had 8 years to do this, thus, if you wanted the best for this people you would have not consider them cannon fodder and let them destroy themselves, take other human lives and be a constant threat for others due to security reasons.

Territorial reform is among other things a real reform also for modernization of transport service and not to create all those daily conflicts between local units, neighbour local units that issue licenses to different companies, which later on clash with each-other. These conflicts do not exist in normal countries. They clash with each-other due to their interests and not mechanically. Mechanically is another thing, isn’t it?

Territorial reform will enable the establishment of an integrated service of the urban transport service, not inter-city, in the interest of many more citizens, which is projected and monitored by very powerful and very competent units. This is the international experience. This is the region’s experience. There is no other country with same system as ours. None! Tell us one country where you have been during your flights or walking of the parliamentary diplomacy, where vans were used as an inter-city service. Maybe you have seen any when your parliamentary diplomacy has taken you to very far countries, but I do not believe our integration path goes in that direction.

Therefore, once and for all, whoever is watching this debate must be clear for one thing: Government will not allow the movement of unlicensed vehicles.

Government will give time to get re-organized to all of those who have a regular license today and will make a choice based on their conditions, whether to operate as a normal taxi service or operate as urban service within the circle defined by authority that issues their license.

Third, Government will undertake a project for innovation and transformation of our entire public transport in order to have European standard buses not only in the lines operating in Tirana, which were introduced at the time when you organized the same protest with the same resistance and were against it.

On the other side, we will formalize the sector. This sector is suffocated by informality and suffocated by unfair competition, it is a sector suffocated by the clutches of incapacity to be developed. We must formalize the sector and open new perspectives for all those who have invested in this sector until today and all the others who would want to invest in this sector. We do need an invention. It is very simple.

Normally, those who have been in power for 8 years. And to govern for 8 years without doing this and then ask how, how, how, i.e. poor people that were governed by you! Unfortunately, poor them who believe in something different from us, in another road, and where at the beginning of this road are you! Poor them, because this is a dead-end road!