Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has had a significant impact on global markets, especially for oil, gas, and other fossil fuels, creating an energy security crisis and dramatic price increases.
Politicians across Europe are looking to implement measures that can relieve cost pressures on their citizens, but also reduce demand for fossil fuels through measures that can support energy savings and decarbonisation.
One immediate action that can be implemented, as recommended by the International Energy Agency, is to make public transport cheaper, and incentivise micro-mobility, walking and cycling. Several countries have introduced measures to enable a shift to public transport and encourage people to leave private vehicles at home.
One of the most high-profile measures has been in Germany, where the state rail company Deutsche Bahn has capped rail prices at 9 EUR per month for regional trains, and also introduced an offer with the supermarket chain EDEKA for tickets priced at 39.90 EUR for long-distance travel.
The measure has already had a significant impact, with the Federal Ministry for Digital Affairs and Transport (BMDV) revealing that since the introduction of the 9 Euro ticket, congestion has reduced in 23 of 26 cities surveyed. Hamburg had the most remarkable transformation with a reduction of 20%. The impact on short distance rail is also significant, with an increase of 58% in passenger numbers compared to pre-COVID figures.
Spain has also sought to tackle the cost-of-living crisis by encouraging a shift to public transport. Firstly, the government reduced public transport ticket prices by 30%, and then, in July, the national rail company Renfe announced that short and mid-distance travel will be free from September until the end of the year, while long-distance rail prices will reduce by 50%. The Spanish Ministry of Labour expects to see more than 75 Million free train journeys by the end of the year.
Ireland has also moved to support a shift to public transport, with a 20% reduction on all Transport for Ireland services from May to the end of the year, with a reduction of 50% for young adults (19-23). Within the first month, passenger journeys rose by almost 10% on pre-pandemic levels.
While other countries are slashing transport costs, Italy will introduce a public transport bonus in September, whereby students, pensioners and those earning less than 35,000 EUR per year will be given a voucher worth 60 EUR to contribute to the cost of annual and monthly passes for buses, trains services and metro systems. The scheme will operate until December.
For more on the EU’s efforts to tackle the energy crisis, see our article on the Winter Energy Package.