A fascinating mix of luxury and history, a tiny, yet beautiful corner of Europe is giving us yet another reason to add it to our travel wish-list! Luxembourg is set to become the first country in the world to make public transport free of charge with effect from 1st March, 2020 as announced by the country’s transport minister, François Bausch. The exemption of fee includes fares on trains, trams and buses.
The government has always had a progressive attitude towards the transport system and had earlier brought free transport for everyone under the age of 20. At present, commuters need to pay only €2 for two hours of travel, in a country with about 2500 sq kms, thereby covering most of the journeys.
The plan, however, is yet to be thoroughly thought of. The government still has a lot of regulations to do before the summer of 2020. The exemption of public transportation fee is prone to bring more tourists to this castle-studded country, home to the Philharmonie Luxembourg, one of Europe’s most renowned concert halls.
If Luxembourg goes through with this plan, it will become the first country to abolish all taxes on public transport. Although some cities of US had regulated free bus services, this will be the first time all modes of public transport have been rendered free in a country. Following the example of Luxembourg, given it is successful enough, France might implement a similar strategy.
Luxembourg is one of the richest countries in Europe with highest per capita GDP in the whole European Union. The capital, Luxembourg city, is hardly a half hour drive away from Belgium, France and Germany. This makes it a prime attraction for jobs.
However, Luxembourg is also one of Europe’s smallest countries. While the increase in jobs has definitely elevated the country’s GDP, it has also increased the congestion people face every day.
The decision came in wake of an alarming rise in traffic congestions. According to reports, more than half the population of Luxembourg owns a car, making driving a primary means of transportation. With a population of around 600,000, composed primarily of foreigners, and many more commuting in to work due to the high housing costs, drivers in the Luxembourg city spent an average of 33 hours in traffic jams in 2016 as opposed to their European counterparts Copenhagen and Helsinki’s average of 24 hours.
According to The Guardian, Luxembourg’s public transport system takes around €490 million and generates around €40 million in ticket sales. However, the re-elected government wants people to benefit from the good economic condition the country is in, as stated by the ministry. The move is supposed to reduce traffic congestions and be responsible for a shift away from private transports along with bringing environmental benefits to the country.
The announcement has had mixed responses. While many see it as a good step to reduce traffic congestions, some seem skeptical believing this might hamper the quality of transportation.
Along with the promise of free public transport to all, the re-elected government has also aimed to legalize cannabis and introduce two new public holidays – including the 9th May ‘Europe Day’.