Paris set to roll out free public transport for children

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Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo had some potentially great news for Parisian families with young children on Thursday as she announced her "big bang for transport pricing" across the French capital.

The socialist mayor's flagship proposal will see children aged 4-11 able to use public transport for free in Paris while currently only children aged 0-4 travel for free.

It is understood the measure will cover transport run by Paris transport authority RATP which includes the Metro and certain RER lines in the capital and surrounding suburbs.

If it gets the green light her idea, which was initially suggested to the City of Paris by the Communist party, would be implemented in September along with other measures too, at a total cost of €15 million per year for the City (€5 million in 2019), according to Le Parisien newspaper.

It is hoped that the move will encourage more people to use public transport rather than a car and see an improvement in spending power for families.

The move comes at a time when the amount of money in people's pockets is seen to be a major concern for the majority of ordinary working French people and decreasing spending power is regularly cited by yellow vest protesters as their main grievance.

Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo on the Metro. Photo: AFP

The measure would bring the French capital into line with London where children under 11 travel for free (under 5s must be accompanied by a fee-paying adult) while in Berlin children under 5 travel for free and those aged 6-14 benefit from reduced tariffs.

Children with disabilities will also finally be able to travel for free on public transport in Paris, something which adults with disabilities have been able to do since 2018, with the measure set to remain in place for at least 20 years.

But it won't only be children who benefit from the new transport measures, the City has also said it will pay 50 percent of the Imagine'R Card for middle and high school students and the Mayor of Paris Anne Hidalgo also wants the city's Vélib bike-sharing service to be free for 14-18 year-olds.

The mayor has also made it clear that she'd also like to roll out free public transport to low income families who earn less than 1.5 times the minimum wage.

However in order to get this measure through she would have to convince centre-reight politician Valérie Pécresse, the chair of the Île-de-France region an its transport body Île-de-France Mobilites and the two rarely see eye to eye.

On Thursday Pecresse's team reacted coldly to Hidalgo's idea with one stressing that "free transport comes at a cost" and that Île-de-France Mobilités was "not just a n open cash till."

Hidalgo is set to officially announce her plan in her traditional new year's speech in front of the City's elected officials set to take place on Thursday afternoon.

In an interview with Les Echos newspaper at the time Hidalgo said that "the question of free transport is one of the keys to urban mobility in which the place of pollution-causing cars is no longer central. Many cities are looking into it."

However there was inevitable skepticism from opposition politicians, with some suggesting the 2020 municipal election campaign was already up and running.

Hidalgo admitted this week that making public transport free for all was not the solution to reducing pollution and people's reliance on cars.

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