​Estonia To Become First Nation To Introduce Free Public Transport

Anyone who regularly has to take a bus, train or Tube will know just how expensive relying on public transport can be. Sure, a few quid here and there doesn't seem too bad initially, but it soon mounts up to robbing you of a large chunk of your monthly paycheck.

But in a world first, Estonia has announced that it will introduce free public transport - putting the rest of the world (and its ridiculous travel costs) to shame.

Tallinn, the country's capital city - and its largest - introduced free public transport after citizens were asked if the idea should be realised in a referendum five years ago.

In an interview with Pop Up City, Allan Alakula - who is Head of Tallinn European Union Office - explained why it was important for local people to be involved in such political decisions.

He said: "A decision for a long-term project should not only be taken by the current elected council, but it should be locked politically by asking for support from the public.

"Although a local referendum is not legally binding, the mandate from the popular vote is stronger than just from the council."

Now the government plans to roll out plans to make Estonia the world's first free public transport nation from 1 July.

Alakula said: "People in other parts of Estonia started to demand free public transport, too. In Wales, an experiment with free public transport is about to end in May, but has already been extended for another year.

"Taking this as an example, we would also like to remove the public transport ticketing for all rural connections in Estonia."

He continued: "Tallinn's approach is not a universal solution for all and for some it might be too extreme. We know examples of cities in Poland, Germany and France that already realised free public transport or are considering it.

A bus in Tallinn, Estonia. Credit: PA
A bus in Tallinn, Estonia. Credit: PA

"But we're also seeing plenty of partially free public transport ideas are being executed, ranging from free weekend rides and lower fares in off-peak hours to free public transport for the retired and students.

"Municipalities should be brave to use their city as a testing ground to find out what system is realistic for them to implement."

Alakula explained that Paris is also considering the introduction of free public transport, mostly as a way of reducing pollution in the city centre.

"Once a city of this size and scale takes the step, other cities will inevitably follow. No doubt about that," he said.

As Alakula outlined, providing an entire country with free public transport is clearly no easy feat, but fingers crossed many other nations are able to follow suit in the future. In the meantime, I guess we'll just have to continue setting a couple of hundred quid for that monthly Tube pass. Sadface.

Featured Image Credit: PA

Jess Hardiman

Jess Hardiman is a journalist who graduated from Manchester University with a BA in Film Studies, English Language and Literature, and has previously worked for Time Out and The Skinny among others.

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