Free urban public transport is spreading

public transport electric trolleybus

The French channel port of Dunkirk has recently introduced free public transport for all, and in so doing joins an increasing number of cities seeking to reduce car dependency and tackle deadly air pollution.

With its metropolitan population of 200,000, Dunkirk becomes the largest city in Europe to offer free public transport via its fleet of hop-on-hop-off buses. There is no registration scheme – users simply board a bus and go.

Tallinn in Estonia became the first European capital to offer a fare-free service on buses, but the scheme is open only to residents who have paid €2 for a registration card.

There are currently 57 fare-free public transport networks in Europe.

As well as the environmental advantages of reducing motorised traffic, proponents of fare-free transport highlight the social benefits. For example, in Britain we have a habit of portraying bus travel as a ‘safety net’ for the young, old and poor – making it free dramatically increases usage, serves as a leveller and is an  egalitarian redistribution of wealth.

Elsewhere, cities unable to go completely fare free but wishing to tackle congestion, road danger and pollution are slashing fares.

The cost of an annual travel pass in Vienna has already been reduced to 365 euros – the equivalent of 90 pence per day. More folk in Vienna now have a 365-Euro ticket than a car, but the scheme could not have been successful without serious investment; the city invests 400 million euros every year in the network. The cheap travel tickets go hand-in-hand with stiff penalties for fare evaders – the penalty is 105 euros. The one-Euro-per-day policy has more than doubled the numbers using public transport prompting cities in Germany to follow suit.

The mayors of Bonn, Essen, Herrenberg, Mannheim and Reutlingen have pledged to strengthen public transport to improve air quality – and they are putting their monies where their mouths are.

Essen and Herrenberg plan to reduce the price of their monthly travel travel passes by 50 per cent.

ETA travel insurance

Germany’s greenhouse gas reduction goal is more ambitious than that of the European Union, which wants to achieve a 20 per cent cut by 2020 and a 30 per cent cut by 2040. Germany has already reduced its levels by over 27 per cent compared to 1990.

Facing its own stiff target of a 40 per cent in greenhouse gases of 40 per cent by 2020 (compared to 1990 levels),  the German government earlier this year floated the idea of making public transport free in a bid to improve air quality in its cities and while that looks unlikely to happen, the inhabitants in six of its cities look set to benefit not only from cleaner air, but cheaper fares.

Ethical insurance

The ETA has been named Britain’s most ethical insurance company 2018.

Beating household-name insurance companies such as John Lewis and the Co-op, we earned an ethical company index score of 89 – earning us joint-first place with Naturesave.


  1. Joel


    I suspect free public transport might mean people walk and cycle less, leading to more congestion (more buses), more pollution and worse health outcomes from inactivity.

    We need a hierarchy, walking needs to be free and easy, cycling needs to be accessable by all, public transport needs to be accessable to all but a bit more expensive, etc.

  2. Richard P Beauchamp


    Where public transport is ‘free’ it means the taxpayer is paying for it. The wider the area that service is available the clearer the association and the greater the contribution, so people will recognise they are choosing to pay twice if they have and use their own transport.

Add your comment

Your email address will not be published. Your name and email are required.