Pollution is a problem that all parts of the world are faced with and everyone is doing what they can to minimize it. It is not so different in Germany and they also want to meet the EU air pollution targets and avoid the big fines that come with exceeding the limit. Their latest endeavour to reduce pollution might be to offer free public transport.
“We are considering public transport free of charge in order to reduce the number of private cars,” three ministers including the environment minister, Barbara Hendricks, wrote to the EU environment commissioner Karmenu Vella, according to the AFP. “Effectively fighting air pollution without any further unnecessary delays is of the highest priority for Germany,”
This proposal is planned to take effect by the end of this year at the latest in five cities across the country. These cities include the former capital Bonn and the industrial cities, Mannheim and Essen. Germany was one of the 9 EU members who failed to meet the EU limits on nitrogen dioxide and fine particles for the month of January and they can not delay taking action much longer.
According to the EU commission, Pollution affects more than 130 cities in Europe and causes 400,000 deaths every year costing €20 billion euros in health spending per year in the EU. Those countries that fail to meet the EU limits can have legal action taken against them at the European court of justice.
Germany has been working to decrease air pollution even before being pressurized by the EU. 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. The plans to produce more electric cars have also increased.
Public transport is very popular in Germany and the number of journeys has increased regularly in the past 20 years and reached 10.3 billion in 2017 as the tickets here are cheaper as compared to other major European cities. However, the politicians are discussing to remove the fare completely to encourage it even more.
“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. The system is still not perfect and where the finances for free public transport will come from is still unsure.
“Ministers should think again during a ride on the U6 underground line in Berlin at 7.30 am,” Die Welt newspaper said. “The conclusion would be clear: more carriages, more personnel, and maybe even more tracks and lines would be needed. Where would the billions for that come from?”
We will find out in the next couple of months how Germany plans to proceed with the plan to provide free public transport.