Free Public Transport in Luxembourg

Free Public Transport in Luxembourg BLOG   Monday 2nd March 2020

Free travel nationwide: today Luxembourg, tomorrow the UK?

Luxembourg must be a great country to live in. In the 1950a and early 1960s it had the best radio station in Europe and now they are giving free public transport!

Rail, bus and tram travellers in Luxembourg will never have to buy a ticket again as of midnight 28th February 2020

The government in the Grand Duchy has unexpectedly brought forward the introduction of free public transport by 24 hours. It will be the first country in the world to abolish fares nationwide.

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”. He has announced that free travel will commence on 29 February, not 1 March as previously reported.

The last opportunity to pay the current €2 (£1.70) flat fare will be on bus number 6 from the Pletzer stop in the suburb of Helfenterbruck, at 11.59pm.

Passengers can dodge the fare by walking 200 metres to the next stop, City Concorde – where they would become the first beneficiaries of the unprecedented policy, with a departure at midnight precisely.

A spokesperson for the Luxembourg government told The Independent: “As 2020 is a leap year and as the concerts and celebrations are happening tomorrow, it has been decided to make public transport free as from tomorrow, in order to allow everybody to join the public events free of charge.”

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.


The Grand Duchy already offers free trains, buses and trams to everyone under 20, and to students aged up to 30.

At present, the nationwide flat fare of €2 is valid for up to two hours of travel, which in a nation the size of Oxfordshire covers almost any journey. First class rail costs €3.

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.”

It will still be possible to buy tickets from 29 February: first-class carriages on the Luxembourg rail network are being kept in service.

Mr Bausch said keeping first class as a premium service would “continue to allow people who want to work on the train to do it serenely”.

One resident, Mary Jones said: “Free public transport in Luxembourg is a smart and eye-catching move by the government.

“But where the government deserves more credit is in its efforts to finally force through infrastructure reform.”

The mobility ministry is in the middle of a five-year investment programme, in which €2.57 (£2.2bn) is being spent on rail and trams, and plans to have an all-electric fleet of buses by 2030.

Francois Bausch, the visionary transport minister who brought in the free mobility scheme, has two key advantages. Luxembourg is both concise (the size of Oxfordshire) and wealthy. While many locals are comfortably unfamiliar with buses and trains, their taxes can, he hopes, help deal with overloads on the roads.

Britain is much bigger and not so well off. But the UK suffers equally from excessive car use that damages the environment, locally and globally. Ms Gardner is convinced other nations will follow Luxembourg on the low-carbon tramway to climate-change heaven. “We’ve already seen a number of countries pick [free transport] up at a city level,” she says.

“At a nationwide level it’s going to take a little bit of time. But I think it will come. “We have the environmental movement to thank for that, because they’ve made all of us aware of how it’s not just good for us, but it’s good for our planet if we travel by public transport.”

Other nations will watch closely to see how Luxembourg fares without fares. The policy is designed to encourage a modal shift from road to rail and bus – in other words, to lure motorists out of their cars. Yet it could trigger unintended consequences such as flooding Luxembourg’s border villages with haphazardly parked cars as crafty neighbours from Belgium, France and Germany exploit the free onward transport.

The UK’s Department for Transport is unlikely to pay much attention, though. In the time it takes a Pret barista to make a cafe latte on the ground floor of the DfT HQ, a civil servant could work through just some of the negatives. The already overloaded 7.57am from Woking to London Waterloo would become unbearable without the high fares that suppress even denser crowds.

The property market in random towns such as Taunton, Oxenholme and Skipton would be distorted as prospective housebuyers cashed in on vanishing season tickets to Bristol, Manchester and Leeds respectively. And, if price is not a factor, how exactly will the Friday night berths on the Caledonian Sleeper from London to the Scottish capital during the Edinburgh Festival be allocated?

Add the small matter of replacing the £15bn in fares currently paid each year by rail, bus and tram passengers, and it is clear that “no-pay UK” does not correlate with current public transport in Britain.

Yet fareless travel is a reality in many UK contexts. Buses and Tubes are free in the vicinity of Heathrow airport, in a bid to cut car use; in Glasgow and Manchester, rail travellers connecting between the two main stations can take free buses; and no one lucky enough to reach 60 in Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales or London (but 65 in the rest of England) need ever pay a local bus fare again.

Could, or should, an enlightened city or county make the logical leap to fare-free travel for all within its boundaries? Brighton and Bristol are the obvious candidates: relatively wealthy cities with terrible traffic and strong green credentials. Yet for many travellers, price is not the problem, says Martin Dean, the managing director of bus development at the Go-Ahead Group.

“There’s no point giving people free transport if they then get stuck in a traffic jam,” he says. “That will make them very, very frustrated. “A fare to get into the town centre is often less than the price of a cup of coffee. So it’s not that they’re unaffordable. Getting rid of congestion is the biggest issue.” He also cautions about the changing priorities of politicians.

“If all of the income for a public transport operation comes from the government, that’s OK while the government is interested. But if the government has another priority, or runs out of money, then where’s the money going to come from?” Back on the 1.15pm from Luxembourg City, as the guard walks past without asking for tickets, Nicky Gardner is more optimistic.

“To give an entire country free transport is revolutionary. Apart from encouraging commuters to shift from their cars, it will slowly transform the attitudes of an entire population towards public transport.” But for now, British commuters should get their tickets ready for inspection.

Simon Calder




Thursday 5th March 2020


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