Green transition: Austrians offered all national public transport for € 3 per day
From November, Austrians will be able to use national public transport – as much as they want and go as far as they want – for the equivalent of just € 3 a day, as part of a radical effort to decarbonization of the economy.
At a press conference Thursday afternoon, Austrian Green “Superminister” Leonore Gewessler unveiled the new Klimaticket – “climate ticket”, heavily subsidized by federal taxes, to stimulate the use of public transport in Austria.
An annual Klimaticket, said Gewessler, will cost € 1,095 and cover rail, metro and bus networks in cities and everywhere between them, whether private or public.
For Gewessler and the Austrian Greens, who formed a coalition with the traditional conservative People’s Party of Chancellor Sebastian Kurz in January 2020, the bet is also a daring bet to try to reassert their environmental agenda after months of drift.
Thanks to the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic – and, according to more critical voices, Kurz’s tight grip on government policy – the Green Party has so far achieved only a handful of its election promises.
“I think you can see how happy I am. It is a great day for the climate and for transport, ”said Gewessler, speaking in Vienna alongside the governors of three of the country’s most populous regions.
The plan will likely be watched closely in neighboring Germany, where the Green Party now holds the balance of power as the country seeks to form a new government after last Sunday’s federal election – and is likely to be wary of compromising too much. its program. for an urgent change.
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Gewessler’s ministry – which covers transport, environment, energy and technology – has faced an uphill battle to bring together Austria’s regionalised transport system and mosaic of private operators into one and even unified system. It is only in recent weeks that an agreement has finally been reached to rally all regions of Austria.
“If this summer has shown us anything, it’s that the climate crisis has already arrived with us,” said Gewessler, referring to the widespread flooding in central Europe.
The program will cost the Austrian taxpayer an additional 150 million euros to subsidize each year, according to estimates by the Ministry of Transport.
The Austrians are already, in terms of mileage, the biggest European users of public transport per capita, according to data from the European Commission.
The Austrian government will present its budget on October 13. A big question that remains unanswered is what role green policies will play in this. The coalition government’s first budget last year was dominated by the coronavirus crisis.
The climate ticket fulfills a Green Manifesto commitment, but fails to deliver on its promise to make transport in two Austrian regions available for € 2 per day and one region in Austria for € 1 per day.
Opposition parties welcomed the move, but said it was only a first step towards meeting climate goals. “Price is not the reason people don’t switch to public transport,” said Johannes Margreiter, transport spokesperson for Austria’s liberal Neos party. “[The problem] is the lack of availability in many places, for example due to bad or missing connections.
The climate ticket “primarily helps those who already travel by public transport,” said Margreiter.
Austrian Social Democrats, who have been strong supporters of climate ticket proposals, have warned that significant investments to improve public transport capacity would be needed.