Transport in Van Luxemburg
Due to the population being relatively spread around the nation, transportation in Van Luxemburg is an important issue for the government, and the nation enjoys a positive reputation when it comes to both road and rail transportation. The Van Luxemburger road network is primarily known for the absence of speed limits on A-roads, as well as the extensive maintenance regime, funded by a system of electronic motorway tolls. On the other hand, the rail network builds on a hierarchy of different rail services, with the HST or High Speed Train being the fastest (and most expensive) in the nation, at service speeds of 300+ km/h. The national railways, the Nationaleisenbunn, are a public company with 100% of the shares owned by the Van Luxemburger government.
The first railway line in Van Luxemburg was built in 1837, and the railways have since taken over the role of overland from coaches and horses. Due to the important role of the railways in overland transport, the NEB (Nationaleisenbunn, national railways) were formed in 1917 as a state company from various private and local railway organizations, and made responsible for the construction of the Van Luxemburger railway network. Until the 1950’s, the NEB was a highly profitable company, that was responsible for the majority of passenger traffic in the nation. However, as more civilians acquired a car and used their automobiles for their daily commute, the share of the railways in passenger transport fell, and the NEB began to require more and more money for their upkeep. Nevertheless, significant investments still took place, with main line steam traction being phased out in 1970 after having been used as reserve since 1964, and the last international and local services with steam locomotives were ended in 1978. In 1980, the NEB introduced the High Speed Train (HST), a service that would eventually come to encompass the whole nation and even further. With the construction and opening of the Beryl Bay Bridge in the 2000’s, international train services were massively expanded, and NEB trains can be seen abroad fairly frequently.
The NEB also has the responsibility of the national railway network’s maintenance and construction through its subsidiary NEB Infra. NEB Infra maintains roughly x km of mostly electrified railways, including HST lines, all set in the 1500mm Maredoratic gauge. The electrification of the network differs greatly due to the various design specifications in different eras and by different preceding firms, and thus Van Luxemburg has no official overhead voltage system, even though the NEB has stated they are striving to make all rail lines capable of supporting 25 kV AC, just as the lines constructed or upgraded in the last thirty years. As of 2010, however, most electrified lines still used 15 kV AC, with some older lines still making use of 1,5 kV and 3 kV DC power.
Despite the fact that railway use has been greatly reduced over the last sixty years, Van Luxemburgers still make extensive use of the NEB’s services, with an average citizen travelling x kilometres by rail each year. This can mostly be attributed to long-distance lines such as the HST, however, which is one of the few branches of the NEB that operates profitably. During the holiday season, a lot of citizens tend to use the train to get to their holiday destination comfortably, using the car and truck transportation service the NEB offers on most long-distance lines.
On a daily basis, the NEB runs around x passenger trains, around half of these being long distance lines (Intercity and up). During 2009, 2.3 billion passengers travelled by train (NEB figures, independent local lines not included).
As can be expected from a country with a reputation such as Van Luxemburg, road transport is one of the most important ways of transport and commuting. Over 95% of the population over 18 years of age (the age legally required to obtain a driving license in Van Luxemburg) has a driving license, used to have a driving license, or intends to obtain one. There is a growing number of Van Luxemburger families with 3 cars or more, often including at least one automobile for recreational purposes, such as a convertible, sports car, or classic car.
The preference of car size for Van Luxemburger motorists has varied over the years. In the early years of the motor car, the large and most expensive models often sold best, but from 1947 on, the C-segment (compact cars) has been the most popular size for an automobile, even though the market for mid-size car/D-segment models has grown massively since the 1960's and both segments now represent a similar size of total automobile sales. VLT has been the most popular brand for years, with the L3 and L5 being important models for the brand, often topping the sales charts.
The country has an extensive network of motorways, which are operated by the government and usually ranked among the longest networks of its kind in the region. As one of few countries in Maredoratica, the majority of Van Luxemburg's motorways have no speed limit, meaning that the average speed on a Van Luxemburger A-road is around 150 km/h. The advised speed limit is kept at 130 km/h, however motorists are not obliged to follow this advice; vehicles weighing over 3,5 t (3500kg), cars with trailers and buses do need to obey a 100 km/h speed limit and may not use the leftmost lane.
A second tier of motorways, B-roads, provides a denser network of motorways with speed limits commonly set at 130 km/h, however many sections no longer have a speed limit nowadays, and on other (safe) sections speeding is only laxly enforced by the Autobahnpolizei, instead looking out for more serious offenses such as right-hand overtaking and tailgating.
The differences between A-class and B-class motorways are relatively minor. A-class motorways are usually wider and commonly have three lanes per direction, regardless of traffic density, and have signage consisting of white letters on a blue background, whereas B-class motorways have signs in a white on green colour scheme. Some construction standards are also different, for example in terms of the maximum hill gradient.
Surprisingly, Van Luxemburgers tend to prefer making use of public transport in urban areas. Researchers have attributed this behaviour to various reasons, such as the higher fuel consumption of cars in cities, limited parking possibilities in city centres, or even the increased wear and tear imposed on automobiles during urban driving. Nevertheless, transport by bus, tram, underground or trolley bus is widely accepted and very popular in urban areas. Extra-urban bus services are often far less popular and mostly serve pupils and students below the age of 21, as well as the elderly.
Traditionally, the extra-urban bus lines and urban transport in smaller towns and cities is performed by private companies. Larger cities often had municipal transport companies that would provide public transport in its various shapes and forms. Since 1978, the Van Luxemburger government has divided the country up into a great number of concessions, each of which is reassigned every 10 years through a public bidding process. Even though municipal transport companies retained their monopoly until 2002, they also are now subject to the public tendering process, though this has not created any major shifts so far.
Unlike many other countries, the Van Luxemburger government subsidises the sale of certain types of standardised buses to the many transport companies, meaning it is often interesting for them to acquire the standardised buses. The design specifications for these buses are revised every 5 years and orders are handed out through a public tendering process. So far, Van Luxemburger companies (most notably VLT) have had a monopoly in providing the standardised buses due to the fact that the public tendering processes very much favour domestically produced vehicles.
Other means of transport
For short distances, especially in cities, the bicycle has been a popular means of transport for the same reasons that public transport remains a rather popular form of transport for Van Luxemburgers. The nation has a very extensive network of bicycle paths and roads, often well separated from the main roads in order to reduce the number of accidents between motorists, pedestrians and bicyclists. For children below 16, the bike is often the only means of transport except for public transport, and large groups of students on bicycles can be seen on the roads during the school year. The Van Luxemburger government actively promotes the use of the bicycle as part of a programme to promote environmental means of transport and motivate the population to exercise more and reduce obesity. Due to this active promotion, the improved bicycle infrastructure and the obvious advantage of bicycles in cities and rural areas alike, 67% of the population now make use of a bike at least once a week. There is an increasing number of people who use their bike on a daily basis for their commuting and shopping trips, only making use of their cars for recreational purposes or medium and long-distance travel