Germany to Trial Free Public Transportation to Tackle Air Pollution

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Public transportation is to be offered free of charge in some parts of Germany, to encourage people to leave their cars at home.

The new initiative is a government-led effort to meet air pollution targets.

Three German ministers have floated the idea with the European Environment Commissioner Karmenu Vella as part of a four-pronged plan to slash air pollution.

Germany is facing heavy fines for poor air quality and is under increasing pressure from the EU to cut pollution.

The plans are contained in a letter counter-signed by German Environment Minister Barbara Hendricks, chancellery office chief Peter Altmaier and Agriculture Minister Christian Schmidt.

The free transportation offer is centred on five cities, including Herrenburg, which is close to one of Germany’s heavily polluted cities, Stuttgart.

The other cities named are Mannheim, Bonn, Essen and Reutlingen.

However, there appear to be several shortfalls to that proposal: not least that half of all money spent on German public transport is generated by ticket receipts. If the offer to go free is adopted, the German taxpayer could be forced to cover the financial gap.

Secondly, there are not many buses that are eco-friendly in the fleets of these five cities, and there is unlikely to be a manufacturer on hand to offer electric buses in such a short  period.

If the offer to go free is adopted, the German taxpayer could be forced to cover the financial gap

Paris and the likes of US cities Portland and Seattle attempted similar free transport plans but all were scrapped after a short period.

German media said the ministers had also suggested other pollution-busting initiatives. These include low-emission zones, more electric taxis and buses, and further incentives on electric vehicle-ownership.

While the nation is home to the world’s biggest wind turbine and wants hydrogen-powered trains within three years, there is still the small question of keeping up with emission targets.

It has been estimated Germany will have to find $1.2 million just to keep pace.

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