What is needed is totally free public transport, says Belgian socialist leader

What is needed is totally free public transport, says Belgian socialist leader
Credit: Belga

Belgium’s Socialist Party (PS) leader, Paul Magnette, has called for public transport to be made totally free as one way of tackling the climate crisis which, he said, required “shock measures”.

What is needed is “totally free public transport, including for the SNCB [national railway company],” Magnette said in Le Soir newspaper on Saturday. “That’s the next step.”

In Wallonia, where the public transport company, TEC, has reduced its subscription prices by 70%, “a monthly subscription of 1 euro per person is not a major obstacle, and it’s a substantial saving for families,” the PS leader noted. “Yes, it comes with a cost: 100 million euros in Wallonia, 200 million in Brussels for young people under the age of 24 years. Now we wish to do the same thing for the over-65s.”

Making Belgium’s railway service free would cost 700 million euros per year, which is the amount the SNCB makes on ticket sales. “That’s not a huge sum, it can easily be found,” Mr. Magnette said. “The 0.15% tax on trading accounts brings in 500 million euros a year. Raising it to 0.5% would more than provide the resources needed and, if in a first phase we limit it to the under-24s and over-65s, that would only cost 150 million. We need shock measures.”

Magnette feels free public transport should be included in a plan indicating how Belgium will reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 55% by 2030 that is to be presented at the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) to be held from 31 October to 12 November in Glasgow, Scotland.

“Belgium needs to go to Glasgow with the recovery plan’s six billion euros, of which an important percentage is devoted to the environment,” the PS leader said. “We’re asking for 1.2 billion more to reach an investment curve leading to 3.5% of GDP by 2024.”

The Brussels Times


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