German test cities present public transport plans to clean up air

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By Sascha Meyer, dpa

Five sites in Germany are due to present plans to make public transport more enticing, in an effort to reduce private car use and clean up air pollution.

The cities of Bonn and Essen in the west of the country and Mannheim, Reutlingen and the town of Herrenberg in the south-west are expected to share 130 million euros (148 million dollars) through 2020 from the central government for the projects.

The plans were presented on Tuesday in Berlin by Transport Minister Andreas Scheuer and Environment Minister Svenja Schulze and include more frequent trains, trams and buses, an expansion of routes, a better and more extensive cycle path network and better traffic controls.

The test or ‘model’ places will try out a package of measures to reduce air pollution, which has exceeded European Union limits in many German towns and cities. If successful, the measures will be expanded nationwide.

Bonn, for example, plans to introduce an annual public transport ticket for new customers of 365 euros, or 1 euro per day. “The pilot project aims to discover which measures really take hold and not just reduce [traffic] at certain places in the five places,” Bonn Mayor Ashok Sridharan told dpa.

Brussels has threatened to take Berlin to the European Court of Justice for repeated violations of nitrogen oxide pollution limits. Berlin has set aside 1 billion euros to combat air pollution, with 250 million coming from German carmakers.

Car manufacturers have pledged to upgrade the software of 2.8 million older diesel cars to improve emissions; the coalition government cannot agree on whether to insist on hardware fixes.

Chancellor Angela Merkel plans to announce her decision on hardware fixes by the end of September.

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