Rail travel in Luxembourg among least impacted in EU by Covid
Rail travel in Luxembourg was among the least impacted across the European Union as a result of Covid-19 restrictions, despite thousands of cross-border workers abandoning trains as they worked from home, data released on Thursday by the EU’s official statistics agency showed.
The number of passengers who travelled on trains in Luxembourg was down by 1.8 million in the first quarter of this year compared with the same period last year. This represents a 32% decrease in rail passenger transport in the country, according to the Eurostat figures.
However, as an overall percentage of total passenger numbers, Luxembourg saw the fifth smallest drop in rail traffic in the EU. Only four other countries - Slovenia, with an 11% fall, Bulgaria and Romania with a 19% reduction, and France - experienced a lower decline. For France, a decrease of 24% represented 59 million fewer passengers.
The largest decrease in the percentage of people taking trains this year compared with early last year - before the impact of Covid-19 kicked in - was in the Republic of Ireland, which saw a 85% drop, amounting to 8.4 million fewer passengers.
Figures released by Luxembourg's official statistics agency Statec in 2019 - prior to the pandemic - estimated that more than 200,000 people normally cross into Luxembourg from France, Belgium or Germany every day to work, with thousands taking the train. But since March last year, carriages have been almost empty as people work from home.
Train services have been a lingering sore point in Luxembourg, in particular the proposed high-speed connection to Brussels which has been on the cards for years but is still not up and running. The three-hour train journey to the Belgian capital takes longer than it did decades ago, despite the project costing EU taxpayers around €750 million.
The modernisation project between the two capitals will not be completed until the end of the decade, Luxembourg's Transport Minister François Bausch acknowledged earlier this year.
Passengers in Luxembourg will have to wait up to another four years before they can connect to Wifi on board, a necessity for many people travelling for work. Just over half of stations are currently equipped with Wifi and almost all stations should have a connection by the end of this year, but the on-board service will take much longer, Bausch said last week.
In a bid to get more people to use trains and unclog the usually congested roads in and out of Luxembourg during peak hours, Luxembourg made all public transport free of charge in March 2020, a measure which cost €41 million, funded through taxes.