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Six municipalities, including Seoul, called upon the central government on Thursday to provide support to make up for their losses incurred by the free subway ride policy for the elderly and other people.

The Seoul city government said the capital and five other cities -- Busan, Daegu, Incheon, Gwangju and Daejeon -- issued a joint statement calling for state compensation for financial losses caused by the free subway use policy for seniors, the disabled and those who have received national merit.

South Korea adopted the policy in 1984 to provide them equal access to public transportation.

Some local authorities have continued to ask the government for financial aid, claiming it is difficult for them and metro companies to shoulder all the free ride costs.

"Demand for free rides has continued to increase, putting an unbearable burden on subway operators and local governments that are underfunded," the six municipalities said.

"The government should make up for the financial losses caused by the free rides as it adopted and benefited from the policy," they added.

According to the municipalities, the accumulated deficits of the subway operators of the six cities reached 23 trillion won (US$19.5 billion) as the elderly population increased and subway routes expanded. Of the total, Seoul took up the largest share of 16.5 trillion won.

Due to subway charges frozen for years, a drop in the number of metro users amid the COVID-19 pandemic and renovation necessities, the net loss increased by 70 percent on-year to 1.8 trillion won last year.

The municipalities plan to deliver the joint statement to the government, the National Assembly and the heads of political parties.

Last year, the parliament discussed revising the Urban Railroad Act to set legal grounds for the compensation, but the action was put off due to possible strain on state coffers. (Yonhap)