Free (public) transport in Luxembourg: should I be bothered?

*Update 23.03.2023, those coming from outside Luxembourg, you can get help with your transport costs.*

*Update 09.07.2021 We now have free access to the electric city bikes (‘Vel’OH!’) via the Office for Infrastructure and Logistics in Luxembourg (OIL) (normally this costs €18 for an annual subscription). Check out whether there’s a Vel’OH! station near you!*

As you may know already: Luxembourg has been offering free public transport to everybody since 1 March 2020. Your first gut reaction may have been that this is a good thing: public transport has finally become truly public with free transport to everybody in one country.

How does this affect you? If you work in Luxembourg City, you may not see any immediate difference in your cost of living [1]. Most employers, including the EU institutions, offered Jobkaart passes to their staff. With this card most employees obtained unlimited use of public transport within the territory of Luxembourg City ‘free of charge’. The cost was borne by the employers who will now save €225 per year and per employee. If you live in Luxembourg City you will not see a difference unless you change leisure habits. 

If you are a stubborn car driver who insists on continuing to drive, you may hope that others will change their habits with the consequence for you that there will be less traffic on the roads (and fewer CO2 emissions), which may be the target of the whole exercise.

Inhabitants of Luxembourg-state outside the validity of a Jobkaart (which covers some neighbouring villages of Luxembourg City) will no longer need to buy an M-Kaart pass, valid for the whole territory of Luxembourg (including some stations just over the border), and will save a yearly amount of €341.75. On the surface it appears that those commuters using stations outside the validity area of the M-Kaart will also save €341.75 per year as they will only need to pay for their trips within their home countries. Yeah!!!

But not all commuters bought M-Kaarts and not all commuters paid the same price. The Belgian rail company used to offer a more attractive solution. Luckily, the company has promised to reimburse passengers using those passes for the free travel on the Luxembourgish side.

Furthermore, you may remember that some 5 years ago we went on strike together with contract agents in order to improve their situation. One result of this strike was a subsidy by the Commission on the M-Kaart for colleagues earning less than AST1/1. Those colleagues’ savings amounted to merely €106.8 per year, the rest (€234.95) now constitutes rather an economy for the Commission.

Additionally, not all commuters will save money. This will happen to those who have been using bus and train stations just over the border. They are now facing an awkward situation. So far, they could just buy an M-Kaart and that was it! The Commission even took the efforts of buying the card themselves and deducted the cost from salaries: a very simple procedure for staff. This has changed dramatically since 1 March 2020. It is not only that now they have to purchase their tickets themselves since the Commission does not take care of the purchase. No big deal! The point is that those colleagues have the inconvenience of HAVING to buy a ticket for a very short distance that was previously included in the M-Kaart pass, and that that ticket costs €360 per year (or €40/month)! In other words: their saving of €341.75 is outweighed by a new cost of €360, which means that they did not gain anything but now have a loss of €18.25€ per year. 

So far, commuters have been encouraged to leave their cars in P+R parking spaces just over the borders outside Luxembourg which are co-financed by the Luxembourgish state (e.g. in Nennig just over the border on the German side opposite Remich) and take the bus to continue their travel to Luxembourg. Those parking spaces may become obsolete, as taking the bus from there now  costs real money. It is still possible to leave your car e.g. in Nennig and save money, if you are willing to take a 10-minute walk over the bridge to Remich and take the bus at the stop in front of the building shown with the arrow in the image. That is true Fit@Work!

If you are based in Brussels you may ask yourself: why should all this bother you? Well, as you may know, our salary-adjustment method includes inflation adjustment based on the Belgium Harmonised Index of Consumer Prices (HICP) and the Luxembourg national Consumer Price Index (CPI). The annual rates of change in the month of July are taken for the two indices and weighed together in relation 80%-20%. The price change for public transport from a positive to a zero price is expected to have an impact on the CPI of Luxembourg of as much as 0.3 percentage points (source: STATEC). In other words, the annual rate of change from March 2020 to February 2021 will probably be on average 0.3 pp lower (e.g. 1.5% instead of 1.8%) than it would have been without the change. For the Joint Index relevant for the salary adjustment of EU staff working in Brussels or Luxembourg this may mean a lower salary adjustment next time (July 2020) by 0.06 pp.

It is worth noting that the additional costs faced by part of the commuters will probably not have any impact on the Luxembourgish CPI (and our salary adjustment) as those additional expenditures – if at all [2] – will only increase the weight of an existing product sold for the same price as before. In other words: There will be quite a number of cross-border commuters who will pay the price but this will most probably not be reflected in the statistics relevant for our pay adjustments.


[1] Cost of living confirmed again as very high:

[2] NB: Due to the different ways tickets can be purchased, it is unclear how far these costs will have to be taken into account in Luxembourg. There is the question of whether a ticket is purchased in a physical ticket office in Luxembourg or abroad. Only those purchases at offices within Luxembourg will have to be taken into account. For online purchases, it is important to know where the trip starts and ends. Normally, the commuter will start from abroad in the morning and leave the country in the evening and this is the end of the trip. In this case, the expenditure does not show in Luxembourg.

Leave a Reply