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Luxembourg “laboratory” of free transport

AFP, published on Sunday March 01, 2020 at 5:45 pm

No more subscriptions and other tickets: Luxembourg passed free public transport on Saturday, a world first for a whole country.

“I’m happy, it’s a good ecological measure. It makes life easier by not having to buy a card (25 euros) each month,” says Anna Beirrao, getting out of a tram.

“Perhaps more and more people will take public transport. Personally, I only use that and my bike,” hopes Thierry, another passenger.

“Ah it’s free, I didn’t know,” rejoices Dominique, who is waiting for his train to Nancy at Luxembourg central station, the bag full of cartons of cigarettes, cheaper in the Grand Duchy. This free admission will be reflected in the price of his ticket for France.

Ticket machines will gradually be withdrawn, but at stations, points of sale for international and first class tickets for the train in Luxembourg (the only exception to free admission) will remain in place.

At the central station, this Saturday is the last day of opening of the counter.

The agents must be reclassified which does not prevent some anxiety. “We do not yet know what will become of us. All the public transport mobility agents are worried. It is not yet clear,” said one of them, Yannick, at AFP.

Some 40% of households use public transport in Luxembourg and free travel, touted by the government as “a social measure”, will represent an estimated savings of around 100 euros per household per year.

For the Minister responsible for Mobility, the ecologist François Bausch, “we really need to change the system”.

“All over the world, we must make the same observation: mobility, as it is organized today, is a failure: traffic jams everywhere, the urban space no longer works, at the rural level people are neglected” , he told AFP on Saturday.

– “21st century laboratory” –

Traffic jams are frequent in this prosperous little country of 610,000 inhabitants where the car is king.

Some 47% of business trips are made by this means.

The bus is only used for 32% of trips to work, in front of the train (19%). By way of comparison, in Paris, almost 70% of workers use public transport.

Some 200,000 cross-border workers also travel to Luxembourg daily to work, including 100,000 from the Grand-Est. Cross-border workers represent nearly one in two employees.

Like the resident population, they mainly use the car.

For the minister, who dreams of making Luxembourg “a laboratory for 21st century mobility”, free access “is primarily a lever, to provoke debate and improve conviviality”.

It is part of a global strategy which provides for massive investments in projects intended to improve transport infrastructure.

For the train, 3.2 billion euros are planned to increase the capacity of the rail network until 2027, after 2.8 billion euros between 2008 and 2019.

The government also plans to double the number of places in relay parking lots, adapt bus lines, provide real-time information to travelers, double the number of charging points for electric vehicles, improve cycle paths, extend the tram network and use a third lane on motorways, dedicated to carpooling.

This plan is not unanimous.

“We have invested for years in the construction of roads. The government is making efforts, but there is a huge delay in terms of the development of public transport”, explains Blanche Weber, president of the Luxembourg ecological movement, an environmental association .

For this manager, “improving the offer” is more important than free.

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