Germany eyes free public transport offer to wean nation off polluting cars

Germany eyes free public transport offer to wean nation off polluting cars

In what has been described a radical move for Germany, several cities across the country will trial free public transportation services in an effort to reduce vehicle usage and related pollution. The shift in transit policy also follows Volkswagen's emission cheating scandal, which has engendered opposition towards the auto industry.

The letter, sent to European Environment Commissioner Karmenu Vella in Brussels, was written by German Environment Minister Barbara Hendricks, Agriculture Minister Christian Schmidt and chancellery office chief Peter Altmaier.

If Vella is not satisfied with Germany's proposals, he has threatened to file a case with the European Court of Justice.

The German government is considering plans to make public transport free in cities suffering from air quality problems, according to a letter seen by Reuters, which also outlines more conventional measures such as low emission zones.

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According to the VDV, nearly half of the money that goes into Germany's municipal public transportation companies comes from ticket sales - $14.8 billion a year.

In comparison with other major European nations, tickets can be cheap: a single ticket in Berlin costs 2.90 euros, while the equivalent on the London Underground costs 4.90 pounds (5.50 euros or $6.80). In fact, Bonn's Mayor Ashok Sridharan was only informed of the plan during the weekend. The German government has made a proposal to introduce free public transportation. While free public transit may be appealing to citizens, there are obstacles to overcome.

Ministers "should think again during a ride on the U6 (underground line) in Berlin at 7.30 am", Die Welt newspaper commented. "Where would the billions for that come from?"

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