No one left behind: the ETF’s vision for accessible and fair public transport

4 May 2023

Public transport is a vital part of modern life, providing connectivity to work, education, and leisure activities. However, the cost of transport can be a significant financial burden for many people. Recently, Germany introduced its 49EUR monthly fare in public transport, while in Luxembourg, public transport is free for all. This has sparked a debate on whether there is a one-size-fits-all solution to making public transport more accessible and affordable for everyone.

The ETF believes that everyone should have access to reliable, affordable public transport, especially in the current context of the cost-of-living crisis and the EU’s aspirations to make Europe carbon-neutral by 2050. Affordable and accessible public transport, even in rural areas, is the only way to achieve these goals in a socially and environmentally fair way.

Regardless of the approach, any change in fares policy must be planned and agreed on in consultation with social partners to benefit workers and users in all their diversity. This change must come with funding and investments as a precondition. Low fare or free public transport cannot come at the cost of working conditions and salaries. There is already a shortage of public transport workers, and overcrowding and putting an unreasonable burden on workers in short supply will not only drive the workforce away but also commuters.

Long-term investments and funding are vital to improving pay, working conditions, and infrastructure to ensure quality public transport. Long-term funding arrangements from other sources must also be in place to compensate for lost fare revenue and to allow for continuous investment in infrastructure, and improvement of fleets and services.

Reduced fare policies must also be part of long-term regional and national climate change strategies, and public transport must benefit from the bulk of public money and EU financial support.

Finally, it is of the utmost importance that public transport remains in public hands, as it is first and foremost a service of public interest and should be kept as such. With the right investments, funding, and good working conditions, the ETF believes that public transport can be transformed into an even more affordable, sustainable transport system that benefits everyone and leaves no one behind.

Find out more in ETF’s Policy Paper: Low Fare and Free Fare Mass Transit