Free Public Transport in Luxembourg – not as good a policy as it might seems

Dear Cezary,
Curitiba spawned the ‘anti-light rail’ movement in the USA, pointing outing to the lower cost and success of the Curitiba Bus system. The world’s first busway was built in Runcorn New Town opened in 1970, with the housing and other developments built around bus stops, and a traffic free route offering 65km/hr bus speeds, with journeys by bus faster than car. The expectation was that 50% of internal trips would be by bus.
When a comprehensive study was undertaken in 1982, with car ownership at only 30% of households, only 15% of internal trips were by bus. Car less households made more trips by car than bus, thanks to lifts from neighbours, friends and family. Presently bus use in Runcorn is 5% of all internal trips, no different from other similar sized towns that have no busway.

Subject: Re: Free Public Transport in Luxembourg

Andrew is right to point out the vulnerability of subsidies for public transport to political change. During the 1970’s South Yorkshire Transport Authority adopted a frozen fare policy and with high inflation at the time expected that by 1985, the fare revenue would not cover the cost of collection, so planned for zero fares. In 1979 the Conservatives took control of the national government and stopped the national subsidy to bus services, including SYTA, which led to a 300% fare rise.  What is also important is the monitoring of impact of the SYTA frozen fares. Car less households made more bus trips but there was an insignificant modal switch from car to bus.

Tallin also has a free public transport system, and there is only a very small shift from car to bus but a big shift from walk/cycle to bus.

If fares were the main driver of public transport use, then it would be a useful lever. All the market research shows that fares are the 4th or 5th factor influencing public transport use. More important are reliability, convenient, speed, waiting times and accessibility. There is also an econometric measure ‘elasticity of demand’.  For over 100 years in the UK this has been about -0.3, which means that a 10% fare increase, leads to a 3% reduction of patronage but a 7% increase in revenue.  More recent research at the University of Westminster suggests that this is now -0.4. Put that the other way round, a 10% fare cut will increase patronage by 3% but decrease revenue by 7%.

If we want to attract car trips, then modes of public transport that are acceptable to car users must be offered, and this does not include buses, despite the claimed success of the Glider service in Belfast, and before that the Scott Hall Road service in Leeds.

Safe bike lanes and bikes would be a low cost option, with the added benefit of improving fitness and health. Lots more where this comes from.


On Thursday, 21 September 2023, 12:30:22 BST, <> wrote:

The huge problem with “free” public transport is the political vulnerability of the necessary government funding.

In the UK we have the perfect demonstration of this with our Primary School politics sweeping away £700M of Tory funding for a Tory Mayor in London on the election of a Labour Mayor, followed by the paucity of financial support for TfL when passenger revenue evaporated during the Covid pandemic.

How much worse would this have been if the farebox recovery had been zero (free fares) rather than the 65-70% recorded by TfL in 2019 (typically this is less than 50% in most other European capitals).

Important, I think, to use fares as the yardstick for value by ensuring, for example, that parking costs at least double the PT fare (as in Amsterdam and numerous other cities). <>
Subject: RE: Free Public Transport in Luxembourg

Free air travel is an intriguing idea😉 My father was an air force pilot and he was even paid for flying…

But the we do not want people to fly unless absolutely necessary.

On the other hand, we do want people to switch to public transport, from individual cars etc.

Look at the popularity of cheap train travels in places like Spain and Germany.

At this stage we disagree, but this is why I want to engage with PhD research of the subject.

Cezary M Bednarski MSc DipArch RIBA FRSA SARP

Studio Bednarski ltd

Unit 19, 2-4 Exmoor St

London W10 6BD, UK

Tel : + 44(0)20 8962 8962

Fx : + 44(0)20 8962 8642


From: Dave Andrews  <>;
Subject: Re: Free Public Transport in Luxembourg

Dear cesari Walt I have sympathy with your idea my understanding is that the research shows that free bus transport anyway simply results in more people who previously used buses using the more it does not create a switch from cards to buses. Furthermore with totally free public transport you will encourage all sorts of journeys that aren’t  necessary. Transport of itself isn’t a good thing ….you could make airplanes free for example would that be a good thing?

Best Wishes

David Andrews
Claverton Energy Group
07795 842295


On Tue, Jun 6, 2023, 19:28 Tay McLean-Foreman <> wrote:
”Around 230,000 people cross the border into Luxembourg each day for work and 75 per cent of these journeys are made by car.”   The country is funded by EU monies as it is the EU judicial & secretarial centre and also holds the EU Parliament seat.
The areas around the airport is ‘full’ of ‘tax free’ multimational companies who hold meetings at the airport.  The airport is actually ‘tiny’.  ie one /two runways and one airport lounge.

From: <> on behalf
Subject: Re: Europe’s richest country made public transport free: Could other countries do the same?

Free in Spain a well even long journeys… you have to pay $50 a month or something but as long as you use it five times or something you get it all back

Best Wishes

David Andrews
Chair Bath Trams
Claverton Energy Group
07795 842295

On Tue, Jun 6, 2023, 13:23 Richard Daniel <> wrote:

Via Euronews: Europe’s richest country made public transport free: Could other countries do the same?