Luxembourg made history in 2020 by making public transport free. But how much does it cost the government and taxpayers by proxy?

You have probably already heard someone say "there is no such thing as free mobility." And in fact, this person was not necessarily wrong. Indeed, public transport is the responsibility of the government, which finances it with taxpayer money.

When we talk of free transport in Luxembourg, we are referring to the dropping of tickets previously needed use the bus or the train before 2020. And as you know, access to public transport became free of charge a little over three years ago.

By introducing free mobility, the Luxembourg government decided to forego the annual revenue generated by selling these tickets, at an estimated cost of €41 million. This figure represented 8% of the total annual costs of Luxembourg's public transport at the time of its introduction.

And, as you might have guessed, the loss of these revenues is financed by taxes. In this context, we wanted to know how these costs are passed on to the taxpayer. In January, Minister for Mobility and Public Works François Bausch mentioned a "system of proportionality relative to salaries" in an interview with RTL.

In other words, the more you earn, the more you pay for free mobility. When asked about this, François Bausch's ministerial office was unable to provide further details on the distribution of these costs as one would need to know the amount of direct and indirect taxes paid during the past year to calculate the financial burden of free mobility for each taxpayer.

It is therefore difficult to establish a price per month or per year for this measure. However, it is known that everyone working in the Grand Duchy contributes, including cross-border workers. It is also known that the operating costs of public transport have increased considerably in recent years.

And this is in fact a deliberate evolution. The Luxembourg government has made no secret of its desire to invest massively in transportation and sustainable mobility. Whether it is on the rails, on the roads, or school transport, all budgets are on the rise.

Upon enquiry, the Ministry has revealed figures relating to the operating costs of public transport for the current year: €799.7 million. This is almost €110 million more than in 2022 and €176.6 million more than in 2021.

If one takes into account the €41 million from tickets purchased for public transport before 2020, it becomes clear that this does not make much of a difference. That said, since free mobility is financed by taxpayers, it is only free in name.