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German Transport Minister snubs Autobahn speed limit in climate plan

Transport minister Volker Willing (FDP) pledged to reduce CO2 emissions by improving public transport infrastructure but ignored growing calls for a 'Tempolimit' on Germany's famous motorway.

Cars enter Bavaria on the motorway
Cars enter Bavaria on the motorway. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Armin Weigel

The FDP politician was setting out his plan for emergency climate protection measures on Wednesday in an attempt to correct Germany’s course as concerns grow that the country is failing to meet its climate commitments.

Speaking at a press conference in Berlin, Wissing said his role as Transport Minister was to ensure that climate targets were met while also making sure that mobility wasn’t restricted for the general population.

“I have to weigh up those responsibilities,” he said, adding that climate protection was “one of the most important challenges of our time”. 

He pledged to set up more charging stations for electric lorries and embark on an “expansion offensive” to improve Germany’s cycling infrastructure, as well as expanding the public transport network.

“That is particularly close to my heart,” he said. 

The Transport Ministry has also set its sights on so-called “eco-friendly fuels”, which Wissing claims could save around 13 million tonnes of CO2 if widely adopted.

This, he said, would help Germany to not only hit but exceed its emissions targets in the transport sector.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: Germany’s new budget ticket for long-distance train travel

Earlier on Wednesday, Housing Minister Klara Geywitz (SPD) and Economics Minister Robert Habeck (Greens) set out plans for greater energy efficiency in homes and districts, including a ban on the installation of gas heating systems from 2024 and new funding for eco-friendly renovation and construction.

No Tempolimit, no Klimaticket

In his package of emergency climate measures, Wissing once again shirked calls for a temporary speed limit on the Autobahn. 

Early on Wednesday, German Environmental Aid (Deutsche Umwelthilfe) had urged the government to implement a 100km-per-hour limit on stretches of the motorway as a first step in drastically reducing the country’s emissions.

The speed limit should have a duration of at least two years, managing director Jürgen Resch told DPA.

“This would even be compatible with the coalition agreement, which only rules out a general speed limit,” he explained. “After one year, it should then be examined how high people’s approval is for a permanent continuation (of the speed limit) after the two years.”

According to Resch, the limit would save around 10 million litres of petrol and diesel from day one and reduce CO2 emissions by more than nine million tonnes per year. Campaigners say this would also help as Germany tries to move away from dependence on Russian gas.

READ ALSO: Germany ‘doesn’t have enough signs’ for Autobahn speed limit, says minister

Transport Minister Volker Wissing

Transport Minister Volker Wissing (FDP) speaks at an event for family businesses in Berlin. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Britta Pedersen

However, the FDP is known to be firmly opposed to the move, having made the Tempolimit a red line in coalition negotiations.

At the press conference on Wednesday, Wissing also fielded questions about potential successors to the €9 ticket – including the introduction of a so-called ‘Klimaticket’, which was initially floated as a draft government proposal. 

But the Transport Minister said no decisions had been made. Wissing said he has set up a working group with representatives from different federal states to look more closely at the findings from the €9 ticket.

Pointing to evidence of reduced traffic and an increased use of train during the summer offer, Wissing said he wanted to identify “the biggest appeal” of the ticket for any future offer.

This will be discussed at a meeting of the state transport ministers in autumn. 

READ ALSO: Could a €29 ticket replace Germany’s €9 transport offer?

Fibre-optic cable expansion

Also on the agenda at the meeting was the expansion of high-speed internet and the roll-out of 5G in Germany.

The Transport Ministry said it had secured €50 billion in private investment for the installation of fibre-optic cables across the country.

By 2025, one in two households should be connected to fibre-optic internet, Wissing said, with every household due to be connected by 2030. 

Member comments

  1. German politicians are the worst, absolute wimps. Afraid of a challenge from the auto industry and lose you future patronage position on an auto board. 130km works everywhere else, time to be a leader and implement change

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TRAIN TRAVEL

Germany’s Deutsche Bahn to raise ticket prices by almost five percent

The cost of long-distance train travel in Germany is to go up significantly from December.

Germany's Deutsche Bahn to raise ticket prices by almost five percent

The price of tickets for long distance rail services run by Deutsche Bahn (DB) in Germany are to go up by an average of 4.9 percent this winter, it has emerged. 

The company said the hikes, which will come into force from December 11th, are in response to high inflation.

Some tickets will see an even higher increase. The price of Flex tickets, which aren’t tied to a specific train and can be cancelled, will increase by an average of 6.9 percent.

The cost of BahnCards 25, 50 and 100, which frequent travellers can use for discounted rates, are also going up by around 4.9 percent.

Super Saver and Saver fares – Sparpreise – are, however, staying the same. They start at €17.90 (or €12.90 for people who are 27 or younger), although these tickets are not offered on every train and come with some restrictions.

Seat reservations will also remain at the same level. It costs €4.50 for second-class seat reservations.

The changes will apply to DB’s long-distance trains – Intercity and Intercity Express (IC and ICE).

READ ALSO: German rail operator plans huge modernisation 

The company said the hikes were happening because of inflation. Like many other companies, Deutsche Bahn was “forced to react to the massive inflation by adjusting its prices,” but the firm said this was still well below the current inflation rate of eight percent.

DB added that the German Tariff Association said at the beginning of September that regional services would see a price increase of four percent on average.

The new long-distance timetable – which will apply from December 11th – can be booked in advance from October 12th, according to Deutsche Bahn.

Up to and including December 10th, the new offers can still be booked at the old price.

Despite major problems with the punctuality of its trains, Deutsche Bahn has recently been able to significantly increase its passenger numbers back to the level it reached before the Covid crisis. However, as one of the biggest consumers of electricity in Germany, it has also been hit hard by rising energy costs. The additional costs for the coming year have been put at two billion euros, said the firm. 

It comes as federal and state leaders are widely expected to agree to a new nationwide successor to the €9 euro ticket, which would cover all regional public transport – including DB’s regional trains – around the country.

According to Transport Minister Volker Wissing (FDP), the government is aiming to introduce the new travel offer by January 1st, 2023. 

READ ALSO: Germany sets out plans for €49 public transport ticket in October

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