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“Stockholm’s Public Transport Faces Financial Challenges as SL Proposes Price Increase for Monthly Card

Stockholm’s public transport system is currently grappling with a significant financial shortfall, with approximately SEK 1.7 billion missing from its coffers. In an effort to partially cover this colossal hole, the traffic administration has put forth a proposal to increase the price of the SL card in the 2024 budget. The suggested increase amounts to three percent, raising the price from SEK 970 to SEK 999.

The intended effect of this price hike is estimated to generate around SEK 180 million. However, it is important to note that this increase falls short of the 30 percent needed to fully cover the deficit. The administration acknowledges that a higher price increase, reaching SEK 1,270, would be necessary, but fears that such a significant jump may result in a substantial loss of travelers.

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One of the primary reasons behind SL’s financial strain is the failure of passengers who disappeared during the pandemic to return to public transport. As of May, travel levels have only reached approximately 80 percent of those seen in 2019. The budget for 2024 is based on a travel forecast of 92 percent, indicating a cautious expectation of recovery. Additionally, increased interest costs, inflation, and loans for investments have added to the financial concerns faced by the transportation system.

The budget document from the traffic administration reflects a clear sense of worry about the future. It highlights the great uncertainty surrounding the economy for the years 2024-2025. Lower travel, unpredictable external factors, and an overall strained economic situation are identified as the primary risks within the 2024 budget.

To alleviate the financial burden, the administration suggests reducing the level of service at station entrances and ticket offices and streamlining traffic agreements during new procurements. However, they caution against an excessive price increase for the SL card, fearing it could result in a loss of passengers. The issue of SL card prices is a contentious one, with increases generating strong reactions from travelers, especially given the ongoing disruptions in commuter train traffic.

From a political perspective, earlier this year, SL proposed eliminating 21 bus lines and reducing departures on 45 lines in order to cut costs. The Moderates in Region Stockholm argued that a mere SEK 20 increase in the SL card price could save the endangered bus routes. However, this suggestion was dismissed by traffic regional councilor Anton Fendert (MP) as unacceptable. He emphasized the need to adapt the price of the SL card to accommodate households’ financial circumstances.

Fendert previously mentioned that the rate was not raised in 2023 due to the anticipated difficulties ahead. He also stated the intention to reduce tariffs for specific groups, such as children, young people, and students. However, he now reveals that the Mittenkoalitionen has not yet taken a position on potential rate increases, leaving the matter to be addressed during the upcoming budget negotiations.

The fate of bus lines remains uncertain, with the issue currently under review. The budget document, however, does mention that trip frequencies will be adjusted to align with the new levels of travel.

In conclusion, Stockholm’s public transport system faces significant financial challenges, leading to a proposal to increase the price of the SL card. The administration is cautious about the extent of the increase to avoid driving away passengers, given the current disruptions in commuter train traffic. The political landscape surrounding the issue is marked by differing perspectives, with discussions set to take place during the budget negotiations to determine the final course of action.

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