‘Nobody’ wins if public transport is free, says Brussels minister
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‘Nobody’ wins if public transport is free, says Brussels minister

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Free public transport in the city benefits “no one” and it would not be unreasonable to increase the price if doing so improves the quality of services, Brussels Employment Minister Bernard Clerfayt said.

“What is free has no value,” Clerfayt, told a meeting of the Voka group of Flemish and Brussels Entrepreneurs on Thursday. “Public transport should not be free, because if there is no price increase, the service doesn’t improve and nobody wins.”

The regional minister, who is also competent for the digitisation, public authorities and animal welfare, once again made no secret of his opposition to the gratuity of public transport, going against plans of his own regional coalition to make the network free of charge to some users.

The regional government of Brussels agreed in a coalition agreement to make the STIB public transport network in the city free of charge for users under 25 and above 65.

The measure was announced for implementation in 2020, with government estimations saying it could cost anywhere from €12 to €20 million per year.

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But Clerfayt on Thursday said that doing the opposite, and increasing fares, would be a good way to incentivise improvement in the quality of the public service.

“It would not be unreasonable to increase STIB rates if this improves the service,” Clerfayt said. “We often forget it, but it goes without saying that price is related to quality.”

Speaking out against the same issue in the spring, the former mayor of Schaerbeek said that “what people wanted were more buses” as well as more comfort during peak hours.

During the meeting, Clerfayt, who in June was fined for speeding in a low-speed zone, also spoke in favour of a kilometre tax as a measure to fight air pollution as well as for an expansion of the network across the region, which he said should go beyond the regional territory, citing places in the Flemish Brabant like Dilbeek or Zaventem.

Gabriela Galindo
The Brussels Times

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