The Suffering of the Cross-Border Commuters
On October 10th, 2008, François Biltgen, Minister of Labour and Employment, and his French counterpart Xavier Bertrand met at a round of talks in Thionville and discussed the cross-border phenomenon.
The Luxembourg Minister announced several measures meant to make the cross-border commuters’ lives easier. These measures are the introduction of a language training leave of 200 hours for cross-border commuters wishing to study Luxembourgish, a new regulation of the unemployment benefits, the right to vote and to run for the Chamber of Employees and above all the extension of the motorway from Luxembourg to Arlon. The issue of transportation was indeed a major topic; every day 70,000 inhabitants of Lorraine cross the border between France and Luxembourg.
It must be said that this fact has existed for a long time and has caused a lot of ink to flow since a group of over 1000 Facebook users has been advocating the introduction of a motorway toll badge for all the international commuters who drive to work on the roads of Luxembourg. The motorway A31 is jammed every weekday from dawn. This is not surprising, as 93% of the 140,000 French, German and Belgian commuters come by car. Public transport is not a real alternative: crowded buses are facing the same traffic jams as motorists and the too few trains can’t contain the crowd of travellers or they stop for half an hour right in the middle of the countryside without any explanation.
Is stress the price that cross-border commuters have to pay?
The Journal de Terville published in a September issue a special report on this topic. No other means of transport allows to travel faster the 40km forth and back or to arrive in time at destination. Result: the commuting employees are habitually late at their workplace. The author of the report asks therefore if stress is the price that cross-border commuters have to pay. The wage level is higher in Luxembourg than in France, which is definitely a motivating factor for employees living in Lorraine, but due to the dramatic rise in petrol prices – although prices have fallen since the beginning of the crisis – the wage differential doesn’t take long to go up in smoke during the journeys.
According to the Journal de Terville, the statistics forecast 5000 more commuters from France in a year. In a few years their number might exceed the 100,000 mark. Although the politicians have really begun to look into the issue, the suffering of the cross-border commuters is far from over!
English version: Robert Mouris
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