31st May 2023

Most EU public transport too expensive, Greenpeace finds

  • A tram in Berlin. Cheap €49 tickets in Germany for all trams, metro, buses and regional trains have been immensely popular (Photo: Fionn Große)
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New analysis by Greenpeace has ranked the affordability of public transport in 30 European countries, concluding that in most places prices are too high.

Apart from Luxembourg and Malta, which have made domestic public transport free, only Austria, Germany and Hungary have introduced relatively affordable nationwide tickets, costing less than €3 per day, according to the data published on Thursday (4 May).

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Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece and Norway scored worst in the ranking, while Dublin, London, Paris and Amsterdam ranked worst in the list of capitals, offering tickets above €2.25 per day. In Amsterdam, for example, the price of a yearly ticket is €1,001.

Around two-thirds of the countries analysed do not have countrywide long-term travel passes at all. The report also takes aim at taxes on public transport, which are on average 11 percent VAT, which the researchers write is "higher than many basic services."

Six EU countries, including Romania, Bulgaria, Estonia, Slovakia, Croatia, and Hungary tax public transport at the top rate, with Hungary leading the pack at 27 percent.

"Affordable public transport is a necessity, but many governments treat it like a luxury good," said Greenpeace EU transport campaigner Lorelei Limousin.

She points out that cross-border airline tickets are excluded from VAT and the kerosene is also tax-free. Scrapping VAT on bus and train tickets is an easy way to get people to drive less, the report concludes, but Limousin said more needs to be done.

The analysis comes days after Germany and Hungary's new low-cost nationwide travel cards came into effect on 1 May. The so-called the Deutschlandticket offers travellers a monthly €49 ticket for local and regional public transport. According to the German transit authority, one billion trips per month are made under the scheme, and one in five buyers is a new traveller who usually does not use public transport.

Although these are rough estimates, market research has shown about half of the population made use of the cheaper tickets.

German transport minister Volker Wissing last month expressed support for a similar low-cost pan-European public transport ticket—a proposition Greenpeace supports and the group has called on the European Commission to facilitate the introduction of a Europe-wide single climate ticket in the future.

"Governments must introduce simple and affordable 'climate tickets' for public transport, to cut people's bills and to reduce the oil use driving our planet towards climate disaster," said Limousin and suggests these services could be paid by taxing polluting forms of travel and end tax exemptions for international flights and for aviation fuel.

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