Tuesday, 25 September, 2018

Germany proposes free public transportation to fight pollution

The scheme will be trialled in five German towns The scheme will be trialled in five German towns Chris Harris The Times
Nellie Chapman | 16 February, 2018, 06:08

German Environment Minister Barbara Hendricks, Agriculture Minister Christian Schmidt and chancellery chief Peter Altmaier drafted the letter originally sent to EU Environment Commissioner Karmenu Vella, outlining the government's consideration of free public transport in cities dealing with high levels of air pollution.

Germany's latest, and more radical plans are similarly supposed to solve the lingering problem of air pollution in German cities, which recently prompted the threat of major European Union fines.

It also moots further possible steps, including restrictions on emissions from vehicle fleets such as buses and taxis, as well as low emission zones and greater support for auto sharing schemes.

"Effectively fighting air pollution without any further unnecessary delays is of the highest priority for Germany", the ministers added.

That comment is in reference to the fact that, generally speaking, public transit systems in Germany are generally owned by local municipalities.

German authorities face legal action because of air quality problems in cities.

A trial of the proposal is planned for the cities of Bonn, Essen, Herrenberg, Reutlingen and Mannheim "at the end of the year at the latest".

Pollution in 130 European cities is considered "life-threatening" according to the EU commission, and causes roughly 400,000 deaths and €20 billion (£17.8 billion) in health spending each year. Any such legal action would be taken at the European court of justice.

In Germany, the topic also gained renewed attention after the Volkswagen emissions cheating scandal became public in 2015, which implicated the vehicle manufacturer in having engaged in a deliberate effort to make its products appear more environmentally friendly than they were.

Car-makers such as BMW, Mercedes-Benz parent Daimler or Volkswagen agreed to pay about €250 million into a billion-euro fund so that local transport could be upgraded. But it could also overburden public transport networks in major cities such as Berlin, Hamburg or Munich that are already bustling during rush hours. In Berlin, a single ticket on public transportation costs about $3.50, while a similar one-way trip costs $6.80 in London.

But leaders of German cities have warned that more planning is necessary for free travel to succeed.

"I don't know any manufacturer who would be able to deliver the number of electric buses we would need" to meet increased demand if transport was free, Bonn mayor Ashok Sridharan told news agency DPA.