29 July 2004
BRUSSELS – A move by the Brussels Transport Minister to make public transport free could cost up to EUR 130 million, say critics.
Flemish socialist Pascal Smet revealed his plans to provide free transport in the Belgian capital in an interview published on Wednesday by the Flemish daily De Tijd.
Smet said he wanted to introduce the measures for everyone living in Brussels to combat discrimination against federal Brussels civil servants who did not benefit from free transport like their counterparts from other regions.
Responding to questions about the financing of the scheme, he said it would be introduced stage by stage, starting with certain social categories such as the unemployed.
A cost evaluation would be carried out over the coming months, he added.
According to the Brussels public transport authority, Stib, the cost to Brussels taxpayers of providing transport in the city would soar to EUR 130 million if de Smet went ahead with his plan.
Current concessions that grant free transport for the under 12s and over 65s are subsidised by the government.
Talks on the issue will take place between the federal government and two regional ministers from the end of August.
Andre Antoine, the Christian Democrat Walloon Transport Minister, has already stated his opposition to free transport for all.
His spokesman said the idea would not change transport habits within the city and would highlight social inequalities.
Federal minister for transport, Renaat Landuyt, and his Flemish counterpart, Kathleen van Brempt, both from the same political family as Smet, said in principle they were in favour of free public transport.
The head of Stib, Alain Flausch, was unavailable for comment but in the past has been opposed to the move.
[Copyright Expatica 2004]
Subject: Belgian news