'Mostly symbolic': Mobility Minister looks to abolish VAT on public transport tickets

'Mostly symbolic': Mobility Minister looks to abolish VAT on public transport tickets
Credit: Belga / Kurt Desplenter

In an effort to lower carbon emissions, Belgium is looking to encourage more people to take public transport by implementing various measures, including abolishing the VAT on train, bus, tram and metro tickets.

Mobility Minister Georges Gilkinet has proposed waiving the VAT on train tickets (currently 6%). Yet in reality, this would have little noticeable difference on passenger prices and would be more symbolic.

"We want to take the VAT down to 0% to give a signal; this is more symbolic and is part of a wider range of measures," he told Bel RTL.

"The train and public transport help us reduce our fossil fuel consumption. It is good for the economy and the environment, so I want to encourage Belgians to take the train more often."

Responding to crises

Encouraging people to take public transport more regularly and improving the quality and affordability of services is part of the government's response to various crises, from the climate crisis to the energy and cost of living crises.

Lowering VAT is part of a package of measures that are being taken, from flexible rates for people working part-time to making public transport free of charge for children until the age of twelve.

Gilkinet's spokesperson told The Brussels Times that as a result of changes made at an EU level in April this year, VAT can already be scrapped on tickets.

"The proposal is now on the table and has been discussed with the Consultative Committee; as soon as a decision is made on the federal level, this can be put in place."

Large-scale changes?

Gilkinet is also currently negotiating the contracts between railway operator SNCB and the government — the last such contract expired in 2008 — during which the burgers and rates are also discussed, his spokesperson told The Brussels Times.

In February, the so-called mechanical indexing of prices is expected to be implemented, taking into account the costs that are carried by SNCB, however, Gilkinet has said he will be paying attention to protecting young people, the elderly and vulnerable people, to ensure public transport remains financially accessible for these target groups.

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While he welcomed moves by Germany, which reduced prices of monthly public transport tickets to €9, slashing emissions by 1.8 million tonnes in three months, and Spain's announcement that rail passengers will be able to travel free on journeys under 300km, Gilkinet said Belgium will first have to improve quality of services before making such moves.

He also stressed the importance of improving the quality of services by increasing the number of trains that are operated on a daily basis, but also the accessibility of train stations. "We are investing like never before in the train. We are aiming for free travel."

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