Why this German city plans to make public transport free

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Why this German city plans to make public transport free
A bus in Monheim, North-Rhine Westphalia. Photo: DPA

A small city in western Germany plans to offer free public transport.


Citizens in Monheim will be able to ride buses without a ticket from April 2020, regional newspaper the Rheinische Post has reported.

The radical plan is a bid to reduce air pollution by encouraging more people to ditch their cars and take public transport.

The move comes after the German government last year said it was considering free public transport “to reduce the number of private cars”.

Since then, five German cities – Bonn, Essen, Herrenberg, Mannheim and Reutlingen – have been earmarked to offer significantly cheaper transport tickets, with the government poised to subsidize the projects with €128 million to help cover the income shortfall.

SEE ALSO: Your reactions to Germany's 'free public transport' idea

Monheim, which has a population of over 40,000 and sits on the banks of the river Rhine, south of Düsseldorf, will be the first in the state of North-Rhine Westphalia to offer ticketless travel to its residents and visitors.

Officials say an incentive is badly needed: around 55 percent of citizens still use their cars, while only 20 percent get on their bike or take public transport.

The plan comes after the city made five of its bus routes free to customers for a week in November last year. However, RP Online said interest was limited due to confusion over which lines had to be paid for and which were free.

But major Daniel Zimmermann said strong action was needed to combat climate change.

"In our climate strategy, we have committed ourselves to reducing emissions," he said on Monday during a public presentation of the proposals.

The plan would see the local authorities pay between €2.5 and €3 million to the transport subsidiary "Die Bahnen der Stadt Monheim", so that customers can get from A to B without a ticket.

Overall, public transport is highly popular in Germany, with the number of journeys increasing regularly over the past 20 years to reach 10.3 billion in 2017.

But critics have warned that it were free, more investment and planning would be needed to accommodate the extra passengers on journeys that are already crowded in busy hubs.

SEE ALSO: German government plays down 'free public transport' plan

What is Germany doing to cut down on air pollution?

Germany is trying to think of ways to reduce air pollution to reach EU air pollution targets.

Air quality has surged to the top of the agenda in recent years due to pressure from climate change activists and Volkswagen's devastating emissions cheating "dieselgate" scandal in 2015, which unleashed a wave of anger at the auto industry, a huge part of German industry.

Meanwhile, environmentalists have brought court cases aimed at banning diesel in city centres, creating polarization on the topic across Germany.

Cities, like Tübingen in Baden-Württemberg, offer initiatives such as free bus travel on certain days of the week in a bid to get people to leave their cars at home.

Yet, according to the Federal Environment Agency, car traffic increased by 18 percent between 1995 and 2017, resulting in more pollutants being emitted than ever before despite cleaner car engines.



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