The FINANCIAL — Luxembourg became the first country to make public transport free for the entire nation. The strategy aims to reduce the gap between rich and poor, and to reduce congestion. The price of the project is €41m (£35m; $44m) in lost ticket fares.
The country of 620,000 people, stopped selling tickets on its trams, buses and trains on Saturday. Musicians strolled through trains and played at stations to mark the attempt to relieve choked roads. Annual season tickets had cost up to €450, according to The Times.
François Bausch, the minister of mobility and public works, describes the move as: “The social icing on the cake of the global strategy for a multimodal revolution”. Nationwide free transport is a key policy of Luxembourg’s ruling coalition, comprising the centrist Democratic Party, the left-wing Socialist Workers’ Party and the Greens. The strategy aims to reduce the gap between rich and poor, and to reduce congestion. The Grand Duchy is thriving economically, but has severe problems with traffic. Luxembourg has more cars per capita than any other country in the European Union, and only one in five commuters use public transport. There have been concerns about possible abuse of the system. The mobility ministry says: “Every passenger must be able to produce a valid personal ID card or passport and may be banned from public transport at any time.” The number of workers who cross from Belgium, France and Germany to Luxembourg each day is approaching 200,000, Independent reported.
Estonia’s capital, Tallinn and the French city of Dunkirk are the only two cities that have made buses free and accessible to all passengers. However, this scheme was not implemented across the entire country, Business Today wrote.
Travelling on transport became free for residents and visitors alike, except for first-class train passengers. The price of the project is €41m (£35m; $44m) in lost ticket fares, but that will be shouldered by the taxpayer. “Of course, just because I call it free transport doesn’t mean nobody pays,” said Mr Bausch, who is part of Luxembourg’s green party, déi Gréng. The total cost of running the service is more than €500m so the government sees the lost fare revenue as relatively small. Transport staff will not lose their jobs, they will merely spend less time checking tickets. It was not exactly pricey before 29 February. A fare cost €2, and double for a day pass. Many workers have their annual travel pass subsidised in Luxembourg, so few people spend much on transport anyway. One of the key aims is to make public transport better, with a promise of almost €4bn on trains between 2018 and 2027. The government estimates that the number of transport users will rise by 20% in the next five years and that the expansion of the tram network and buses will be able to deal with that, BBC reported.
Some cities have already taken similar partial measures but the transport ministry said it was the first time such a decision would cover an entire country. The free transport, which is being flagged as “an important social measure”, will affect approximately 40% of households and is likely to save each one around €100 per year. Private cars are the most used means of transport in the Grand Duchy. According to a 2018 survey by TNS Ilres, cars accounted for 47% of business travel and 71% of leisure transport. The bus is only used for 32% of trips to work ahead of the train which accounts for just 19%. In Paris, by way of contrast, 68.6% of workers use public transport, according to Insee, the French statistics institute, The Journal wrote.
“Systematic and continuous investment is a sine qua non-essential condition for promoting the attractiveness of public transport,” François Bausch, the country’s transport minister, said. A major tramway has been under development for years in the capital Luxembourg City, which is known by locals as one of the worst spots for traffic jams. The first tramway section opened at the end of 2017 but construction is ongoing to link the southern portion of the city to the north side near the airport, as reported by The Hill.