The new German government is thinking to make public transport in cities free of charge for everybody in an attempt to clear the air with Brussels. The EU Commission threatens to file a lawsuit against Germany after cities continue to fail to stay within emission limits.
The German coalition government GroKo is facing EU penalties over poor air quality and said it wants to test free public transport in five cities in order to motivate drivers to switch their car for a bus or train.
The plan had been outlined in a letter leaked to the German press agency dpa, which environment minister Barbara Hendricks, transport minister Christian Schmidt and Angela Merkel’s chancellery chief Peter Altmaier sent to EU Environment Commissioner Karmenu Vella.
In the letter, they proposed not only free public transport but also low emission zones, extra incentives for electric cars and retrofitting for existing vehicles.
Bonn, Essen, Herrenberg, Reutlingen and Mannheim have been named as testing grounds for the new project. The most successful measures could then be rolled out to all other cities affected.
Germany has been carrying its diesel and NOX problem for some time with the diesel summit bringing little to no results. Hence why the EU Commission is threatening to resort to tougher measures.
However, opposition is stirring already with the Green party calling such free public transport a sign of “desperation” as the whip Oliver Krischer renews the call for diesel bans and a so-called blue sticker to designate the most polluting vehicles.
Andreas Knie, who leads InnoZ (Innovation centre for mobility and societal change), also doubted the idea as he believes its effect would be limited because the price is not the reason why people would not use public transport. He also warns that it would be expensive to follow such a policy.
Public transport is organised on the municipal level in Germany and so Helmut Dedy, the head of the Council of German Cities, said that the federal government would have to finance public transport if it wanted to make it free.
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