LUXEMBOURG - Worldwide, public transport is already completely or partially free in more than 275 cities and regions. The outlier is the Grand Duke of Luxembourg, which on March 1, 2020, became the first country in the world to make both train, streetcar and bus completely free, and this for both its own residents and foreign visitors.

The decision in Luxembourg was accompanied by a substantial additional investment in public transport. The new mobility plan envisages 6 to 8 billion euros for this in the period up to 2035. Based on revenues in 2022, it would cost 1.189 billion euros annually in our country to offer free public transport throughout the country. If one confines oneself to the Brussels metro, this would amount to 190 million euros. In this study, in four pieces, we successively analyzed the situation in Luxembourg, the opinions among governments and transport companies in our country, and asked numerous traffic experts for their opinions. We conclude in summary with a series of our own reflections.

Despite the fact that parties such as PS (NMBS) and PVDA (De Lijn and MIVB) in our country are asking for parts of public transport to be offered free of charge, the relevant ministers and transport companies are against it. Like some researchers and organizations such as the Sustainable Mobility Network and TreinTramBus, they consider investment in the development of public transport a higher priority. For this, they say, the traveler must also contribute, although everyone is in favor of social tariffs for certain target groups.

Other researchers find that free public transportation does make sense. Indeed, wherever it was introduced, ridership rose sharply and there was a transfer - albeit often a limited one - of motorists. The sharp increase, in turn, led the government to invest much more in it. According to them, public transport is a common good comparable to other public services such as health care, education ... that should be offered as cheaply as possible and preferably completely free.

Luc Vanheerentals

Luc Vanheerentals is a Belgian freelance journalist.