In a bid to tackle pollution Germany will be trialling a free public transport system across five of its major cities.
As a nation, Germany is noted for its flourishing automobile industry, but now their drastic proposal to limit road traffic by making public transport free comes as they race to meet EU air pollution goals and avoid paying a huge fine.
The move comes in the wake of Volkswagen’s scandal, where it was revealed the prominent German car manufacturers had been cheating in their emissions tests.
Known as ‘desielgate’ it was an ugly stain on the country’s proud car industry.
A letter was written to the EU’s environment commissioner, Karmenu Vella, by three ministers including the environment minister, Barbara Hendricks, which said, reports The Guardian:
We are considering public transport free of charge in order to reduce the number of private cars.
Effectively fighting air pollution without any further unnecessary delays is of the highest priority for Germany.
Their aim is to make the free transport proposal fully active by ‘the end of this year’. It’ll be tested in five cities across western Germany, including former capital Bonn as well as industrial cities Essen and Mannheim.
As well as not having to pay for tickets, other motions were put forward yesterday to reduce emissions from vehicles, such as buses and taxis, as well as proposing low-emissions zones or support for a car-sharing system.
Results are needed soon as Germany, along with eight other EU members – including Spain, France and Italy, have failed to meet the January 30 deadline on the EU’s limits for nitrogen dioxide and fine particles.
Despite failing to meet the date, Vella was lenient and gave those countries extra time to put forward future pollution-reduction solutions.
Should they fail to meet the new time period these countries will face legal action and a hefty fine.
While the thought of free travel is ideal and would be undoubtedly welcomed by German citizens across the five selected cities, local officials have warned the proposal will require much more planning.
Bonn’s mayor Ashok Sridharan stated:
I don’t know any manufacturer who would be able to deliver the number of electric buses we would need?
In the fallout of 2015’s ‘dieselgate’ controversy, suspicion has grown towards other car manufacturers.
It spurred environmental activists to present cases for banning diesel-fuel cars from certain parts of Germany, in particular, highly populated city centres.
Car manufacturing giants in Germany such as BMW have agreed to contribute at least €250m euros towards Germany’s billion-euro fund to upgrade their local transport.