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A climate expert has called on lawmakers to provide people with cheap public transport tickets as petrol prices continue soaring.

Schleicher suggests public transport action

A climate expert has called on lawmakers to provide people with cheap public transport tickets as petrol prices continue soaring.

Stefan Schleicher of the Institute for Economic Research (WIFO) said yesterday (Thurs) the current situation posed a "unique chance" for decision-makers. Schleicher told radio channel Ö1 that politicians should offer affordable long-term tickets for means of public transport as part of a possible reform of the scheme of financial support for commuters.

Economy Minister Reinhold Mitterlehner of the Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP) disclosed on Wednesday that his party had plans to change the current restrictions regarding subsidisation of people going to work by car. Commuters are compensated for their petrol costs to a certain extent as part of their annual tax declaration. The amount is linked to their income.

This detail of the law means that Austrians with comparably low wages do not get any money from the state to pay for petrol. Freedom Party (FPÖ) boss Heinz-Christian Strache warned the government coalition of Social Democrats (SPÖ) and ÖVP from forgetting about this group of people in a possible amendment. Car club ÖAMTC – which is associated with the ÖVP – said more and more women and young families were affected that way.

Schleicher suggested yesterday that the government could take the opportunity and link the compensation regulation with attractive public transport fares. ÖAMTC officials called for a "mobility subsidisation" for everyone regardless of whether cars or public transport were used to get to work.

Arbö – a motorists’ organisation with ties to the SPÖ of Chancellor Werner Faymann – said diesel fuel cost 1.43 Euros on average in Austria yesterday. Drivers had to pay 1.53 Euros for one litre of Eurosuper petrol on the same day, according to the car club.

Josef Bucher – who heads the Alliance for the Future of Austria (BZÖ), a right-wing opposition party – said Austrian law must give judges the chance to issue jail sentences if mineral oil firm bosses were found to be charging excessive and unfounded fuel prices. This appeal seems to strongly contradict the party’s attempt to correct its reputation from a faction with xenophobic tendencies to a political movement which concentrates on taking a liberal position on economic issues.

Mitterlehner tried to react coolly to Bucher’s appeal to take action. The minister made aware of the plan to set up a stricter price monitoring system later this year. Mitterlehner claimed the BZÖ chairman was "nervous" because of being robbed of a topic he could focus on in the coming months by his plans.

David Pfarrhofer of Linz-based pollster Market said in a recent platform discussion that all kinds of driving subjects such as the price for fuel had always included political controversy. He made aware of surveys showing that a third of Austrian car owners had no intention of driving less no matter by how much petrol prices jump in the coming months and years. Statistics disclose that car petrol cost eight per cent more last month than in March 2011. The general inflation climbed by 2.4 per cent in the same time period.

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