In 2020, the small state will be the first country to introduce free local public transport. Some cities in Europe have tried something similar.
Luxembourg streetcars look good and will be free to use from 2020 Photo: dpa
Using the bus, train or streetcar without buying a ticket – that will be possible in Luxembourg from March 1, 2020. Then the small state will be the first country with free local transport. This was announced on Monday by Francois Bausch, the minister responsible for mobility.
In the future, only those who want to use the first class of trains will need a ticket. In the remaining section, as well as on buses and streetcars, passengers will only need to show identification. To this end, the Luxembourg state is investing around 2.5 billion euros in the transport network by 2023. "The introduction of free public transport is an important social measure. You could call it the social icing on the cake," said Bausch.
The free transportation should be used not only by Luxembourgers in the country, but also by the 200,000 or so commuters who travel to work in Luxembourg every day from neighboring countries. Traffic is a particular problem in the capital: according to a 2016 study, drivers here spend an average of 33 hours a year stuck in traffic.
Experts disagree as to whether drivers will actually change as a result of the free offer. According to a study by the Technical University of Dortmund, free public transportation alone does not lead people to abandon their cars. It would make more sense to use more public transportation and increase its frequency. Driving must also become more expensive, for example through higher parking fees and more 30 km/h zones. Bicycle lanes would have to be expanded.
Tickets have been cheap for a long time
Although more and more people are using public transportation and bicycles today, car traffic has not decreased – people are traveling more kilometers overall. In Germany, the car remains the most-used means of transport – 55 percent of journeys are made by car, according to the TU study.
Whether more car drivers in Luxembourg will switch to buses and trains from March 2020 remains questionable. Local transport has been cheap there for a long time. A single ticket valid for two hours for the entire country costs just two euros, and a day pass costs just four euros. The state has financed 90 percent of local transportation up to now.
Free transportation has been offered in various European cities and communities in the past. But many projects have since been discontinued for financial reasons. In the Estonian capital Tallinn, however, registered residents have been able to travel free of charge by train, bus and streetcar since 2013.
The German government last discussed free public transport in February 2018. The reason for this was the high emissions in many German inner cities and the associated diesel driving bans. The then Environment Minister Barbara Hendricks (SPD) wanted to launch pilot projects in five cities. The project petered out, and the federal, state and local governments were unable to agree on funding. Today, only a few cities offer free transportation: Since December, buses and the streetcar in Aschaffenburg have been free one day a week for a period of two years. In Tubingen, this will be the case from February.