Luxembourg has become the first country in the world to provide public transport for free. The small EU hub aims to boost tram, train and bus usage and rid itself of traffic jams blamed on commuters using private cars.
Luxembourg Transport Minister Francois Bausch hailed a “great day” for the Grand Duchy, as it became the first country on Earth to make public transport ticket free.
The small but wealthy nation has introduced free public transport in an effort to “motivate” residents — and 214,000 daily foreign commuters — to change their behavior in the hilly region wedged between Germany, Belgium and France.
Rides on buses, trains, and trams were already free on Saturdays but all charges have now been scrapped as the week closes.
Preexisting sales of €2 tickets had amounted to €41 million ($45 million) or just 8% of Luxembourg’s annual transport budget of €500 million.
Public transport will now be funded largely via taxes paid into the national budget, meaning travel savings for private households, especially “low earners,” said Bausch’s ministry, adding: “The scheme applies to residents, cross-border commuters and tourists alike.”
Commuters, visitors will benefit too
“You will no longer need a ticket to board any national bus, train or the tram,” proclaimed Luxembourg’s public transport consortium Saturday, adding: “Commuters from neighboring countries will benefit from reduced fares!”
It warned Luxembourgers however: “Free public transport ends at the border, so you must get a cross-border pass or ticket if you plan to travel outside of the territory of the Grand Duchy.”
Tickets would also be needed for first-class travel on trains.
To end traffic jams, Luxembourg in 2017 opened the first section of its planned tram service from the capital’s southern outskirts to its airport to the north.
And it’s now focused on anticipating travel demand, doubling “Park+Ride” car parking spaces “especially at borders” and establishing “cohesive” cycle routes across its 2,586-square-kilometer (998-square-mile-) landscape.
Alone for its nascent track network, 4 billion euros are being invested over the period 2018 to 2027, to cater for an anticipated 20% rise in public mobility needs by 2025.
That amounts to €600 per Luxemburg resident per year on rail transport, says the ministry.
Stuck in traffic
A survey done in 2018 by TNS Ilres found that cars in Luxembourg accounted for 47% of business travel and 71% of leisure transport.
By 2030, its public transport fleet is expected to have “alternative drive technology,” a reference to electric motorization.
Luxembourg, by area one of Europe’s smallest sovereign states but one of four EU seats, including the European Court of Justice, is staffed by commuters who travel daily from neighboring France, Belgium and Germany.
The 614,000-person dukedom, with comparatively high wages, is facing strong growth in population. Almost half are foreigners, including resident Portuguese citizens making up 18%, and French at 13%.
Bausch, a former Luxembourg rail civil servant and member of the Greens, is also Luxembourg’s deputy prime minister in a three-party liberal-social democrat-greens coalition government renewed in 2018 and headed by premier Xavier Bettel.
In neighboring Germany, Alexander Handschuh, spokesman for the country’s DStGB local bodies association, said Luxembourg’s move signaled a paradigm shift because it was trying “very resolutely with an all-round concept” to boost public transport.