Germany considers free public transportation in most polluted cities

Germany

An eye-catching proposal to trial free public transport in some German cities as a means of cutting emissions from dirty private cars is not intended as a substitute for efforts to clean up cars already on the road, a government spokesman said.

News magazine Politico cited a letter by acting Minister for the Environment Barbara Hendricks and others to EU Environmental Commissioner Karmenu Vella which outlined the plan.

They selected five cities to roll out the program: Bonn, Essen, Reutlingen, Mannheim and the town of Herrenberg which is south of Stuttgart - one of Germany's most heavily polluted cities. The authors said they had agreed these measures with Germany's federal states and municipalities, but Helmut Dedy, the head of the Council of German Cities, said he was surprised by the proposal.

How exactly the cost of the free public transportation would be covered though remained unclear.

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German authorities face legal action because of air quality problems in cities. Several courts in Germany were also independently mulling imposing a driving ban on diesel vehicles in the worst-affected cities.

However, the Association of German Transport Companies (VDV) expressed doubts over the economic viability of free public transportation.

Brussels has given Germany and eight other European Union member states a final chance to offer proposals to reduce vehicle emissions and conform to European Union air quality standards. "There had been plans for lowering ticket prices in some cities, he said, adding that the federal government would have to finance public transport if it wanted to make it free".

If the EU's environment chief Vella is not satisfied with Berlin's proposals, he may file a case with the European Court of Justice.

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