The government has great ambitions with regard to climate policy. There is also a major housing challenge. Public transport can make an essential contribution in many cases. On Friday, April 21, there was only disappointing news: the cabinet has no money to keep public transport afloat. The Spring Memorandum for 2023 and the government's climate package make it clear that no investments will be made in public transport.
The simplest and most impactful button to achieve the government's ambitions is to keep alive and stimulate the means of transport that – through shared and often electric transport – is far ahead in the transition towards sustainability, namely public transport. But public transport is not or hardly mentioned by this government in the climate package, let alone supported and encouraged. The cabinet is not even prepared to remove the VAT from public transport tickets in order to ensure that upcoming price increases do not lead to transport poverty for vulnerable groups. This limits mobility for people who can afford the public transport ticket.
The money has to come from somewhere. The carriers still have very limited potential to further streamline their organisations. The coffers of the local and regional authorities are also starting to run out, because they have already contributed significantly to the maintenance of public transport and at the same time, and at the request of the central government, are investing in the growth of the future.
The traveler becomes the victim
Due to the national indexation of the increased costs, city and regional transport companies will be forced to raise the price of public transport tickets by 11 percent next year (the rate adjustment for next year is not yet known for NS). After already a substantial increase this year, this will hit travelers hard in the wallet, who will also have to deal with other cost increases. The sector is also forced to further scale down public transport without additional government funding. This will be most disadvantageous for the regions where the lines are the 'thinnest', ie the most unprofitable lines in the region. This is at odds with the justified renewed political attention for the level of facilities in the region.
Package of measures is ready, money 'is not there'
However, none of this is necessary, because in recent months – in response to the 'urgency conference' set up by State Secretary Heijnen – a package of measures has been put together to vigorously restore public transport and enable it to play its social role with verve. For example, Public Transport Netherlands wants to make new financial agreements with the decentralized authorities to prevent the downward spiral caused by scaling down. Other measures include a 'green' ticket, incentives to promote traffic flow, a one-off energy compensation, and accelerating the transition to a zero-emission bus fleet. However, State Secretary Heijnen has announced that he cannot afford any of these measures.
Powerful recovery of public transport for climate, housing and regions
Public Transport Netherlands' call to the cabinet is clear. Increase and index the Broad Purpose Allowance (BDU) and remove counterproductive tax arrangements, particularly in the area of VAT and excise duties. Do not postpone or cancel much-needed investments in the future to cover short-term financial gaps. Because from our recently published report The value of public transport shows that to achieve all government ambitions, strong and robust public transport is required. We need to invest in that.