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Paris to examine making public transport free for everyone

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Paris to examine making public transport free for everyone
Photo: AFP
09:39 CET+01:00
Could Paris take the revolutionary step of making public transport completely free for all residents of the capital? The mayor is looking into the idea.

One way to stop people jumping the barriers at Metro stations around Paris is to remove the barriers altogether.

It sounds outlandish for a capital city to make public transport free but Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo announced on Monday that she had commissioned a study to look into the possibility.

But could Paris really afford to let its 2.25 million residents travel on buses, trams, the Metro and RER for free by the year 2020?

Hidalgo said the radical move would only be done if it was economically viable and admitted that "today, there's nothing to say that it would be possible."

One problem for Socialist mayor Hidalgo (pictured centre below) is that Paris transport costs are the responsibility of the organisation Île-de-France Mobilites, which is chaired by Valerie Pecresse, the right wing president of the greater Paris region of Île-de-France. The pair rarely see eye to eye.

Transport users in Paris contribute some €3.8 billion to the Île-de-France region's coffers. 

Nevertheless she wants to investigate the possibility of making transport free a reality by 2020, which is when she faces new elections.

"I decided to ask three of my assistants to conduct a large study on the subject, which will involve French and foreign experts," Hidalgo said. The mayor believes the question over whether it is possible "deserves to be asked without any preconceptions or dogmatism."

And in an interview with Les Echos newspaper Hidalgo added that "the question of free transport is one of the keys to urban mobility in which the place of pollution-causing cars is no longer central. Many cities are looking into it."

There was inevitable scepticism from opposition politicians to Hidalgo's plan with some suggestion the 2020 municipal election campaign was up and running already.

"Who is going to pay the bill?" said Alexandre Vesperini, from the pro Macron PPCI group on the city council.

In the meantime Hidalgo is looking to at least make public transport free in Paris for certain sections of the population. The Paris city council will decide whether the monthly Navigo transport pass will be free for over 65s who earn less than €2,200 per month or €3,400 if they are in a couple.

Paris would not be the first place in France to make public transport free for residents.

In all there are some 24 towns (see link below) that have already committed to adopting the revolutionary measure including Dunkirk on the English Channel coast.

"Not only are we redistributing spending power," said the town's mayor Patrick Vergriete. "But we are getting rid of inequalities by providing better access to jobs and leisure facilities.”

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