This month, the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg is celebrating the first anniversary of the introduction of free public transport… an asset that is proving to be a boon to tourism.
The tiny nation introduced the free use of public transport on February 29, 2020. The Grand Duchy is the first country in the world to let both inhabitants and visitors criss-cross its territory for free. An opportunity for tourists to spend a few days in Luxembourg City and visit its surrounding.
Since December, brand new tramways in Luxembourg city with changing interior lighting and music smoothly link Luxembourg’s main rail station to the Kirchberg, the futuristic district where European Institutions are located. “Luxtram” vehicles are an attraction in themselves with their sleek design and interiors that are more reminiscent of a trendy bar than public transport. But another surprise awaits first time visitors: the total absence of vending machines for tickets at Luxtram stations.
When initially introduced early last year, the decision was seen as a radical move for the Grand Duchy. And a total change in the conception of commuting inside the country. The move was primarily motivated by ecological considerations. In an interview last year, the Minister in charge of mobility, François Bausch, belonging to the Green Party, explained that there was a need to change the system. “Mobility as it is organised today, is a failure: traffic jams are everywhere and the urban space no longer works,” he was then quoted as saying.
In Luxembourg, a small country of 610,000 inhabitants, 69% of all travel in 2019 was done by car. According to a mobility survey carried out at the end of last year throughout the Grand Duchy, the use of public transport was relatively low, accounting for only 17% of all journeys. The consequence was regular gridlocks in all major towns of the Duchy. While it is still early to look at the impact of the first year of free transportation, all indicators point to the fact that it can only be positive.
To accompany a switch from individual to public transport, massive investments are being undertaken to improve transportation. On rail alone, the country will spend €3.2bn between now and 2027 to upgrade and expand capacities. In Luxembourg City, the tram line is due to arrive at the airport before the end of 2021, from whence public transport usage will certainly be on the rise.
Free transport – an asset for tourism
For the tourists, free public transport provides a wonderful opportunity – particularly for seniors and families to enjoy Luxembourg City and the Grand Duchy on a holiday, while at the same time saving money on transportation.
According to Luxembourg for Tourism, the agency in charge of tourism promotion for the Grand Duchy, free public transports is a real plus for the promotion of the country, especially for city breaks and excursions to the country’s top destinations. These include the spectacular castle of Vianden to the north or the charming small town of Echternach and the Moselle river vineyards to the east. In most cases, bicycle transportation is also free in trains.
Luxembourg for Tourism this year will put outdoors activities at the centre of its marketing initiatives. The agency wants to concentrate on promoting hiking, trekking and cycling around the country. “Cycling is getting increased attention from the government with new cycle paths to be added. We already offer some 600 km of cycle roads in the country. Another 300 km is to be added in the coming years” explains the agency.
Luxembourg’s national cycle path network is made up of 23 tracks.
There is still an exception to full free public transport. Ticket machines and sales counters are still visible at Luxembourg City main rail station. But they are only dedicated to travellers wishing to buy first class tickets for the train in Luxembourg, or for a ride beyond the Duchy’s borders.