Plans for a major shakeup in the German public transport industry could be underway, according to a leaked document, that could see the government subsidizing the costs to offer free rides to the public.
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.
Making all of Germany’s inner city transport free won’t be an overnight switch though. Most of the local tranport is owned by the municipalities in which they operate in, and despite the leaked document stating that the plans have already been discussed with the state and local leaders, the news caught many off guard.
Questions have been raised as to how the German government plans to fully offset the costs, including the purchase of additional trains, busses and employees that would be needed to accommodate the increase in passengers. Many of the towns rely on their public transportation to bring in additional revenue that could go away if the federal government only subsidizes the operational cost.
It’s believed that this plan was developed in response to added pressure by the European Commission to penalize EU members who’s country’s are sending too many pollutants in the air. In addition to the free transportation, the letter also included additional anti-pollution measures that will be first tested in Bonn, Essen, Herrenberg, Reutlingen and Mannheim. The successful measures will then be rolled out to all German cities facing high air pollution.