Monday, April 02, 2018

NOx pollution in German city centres. Is there a cure?

NOx pollution in city centres arising from Diesel powered vehicles is a major problem in Germany. The Federal Government is under pressure from environmental groups and from the EU to reduce levels of pollution in city streets. The government has chosen five communities to act as Lead Cities: Bonn, Essen, Herrenberg, Mannheim and Reutlingen. The original Federal proposal was that the five should just offer free public transport. This idea was rapidly rejected because the communities had insufficient vehicles and staff to meet the expected demand. The five towns and cities were then requested to suggest ways of reducing motorized traffic in centres. The cities delivered their proposals recently. If the suggestions convince the Federal Government, serious financial assistance will be forthcoming. None of the cities in this group wishes to only implement banning vehicles in the city centres.
Bonn called for exhaust gas clean up systems to be fitted to vehicles paid for by the motor manufacturers to reduce pollution. It has been suggested the introduction of a blue sticker to identify cleaner diesel-engined vehicles will enable the choice of vehicles that need to be banned from the city centre. The city intends to persuade more people to use public transport and cycle.  Public transport use will be encouraged by either a regional BahnCard 100 (a go anywhere ticket) for all public transport including long distance trains or a KlimaTicket (Climate Ticket) limited to public transport and regional trains costing €365 annually. These tickets will be matched by electrification of the Voreifelbahn into the Eifel Hills and a new S-Bahn (urban railway) between Bonn and Cologne. New cycleways including a high speed bicycle-Bahn will improve the cycling infrastructure.
Essen wants to increase the number of Park and Ride Stops and build new cycleways.
Herrenberg, a small town, in the Black Forest has suggested creating an app that displays real time traffic information, better bus services, a subsidized monthly season ticket for public transport and financial grants for the purchase of cargo bikes and e-bikes.
Mannheim is keeping its cards very close its chest, but is concentrating on improving its public transport system. There is also a move to build a depot in the harbour close to the city centre where packet services and local deliveries can be transferred to electrically powered vehicles.
Reutlingen is backing the blue sticker to decide which vehicles can enter the own when pollution levels are high. The town council has presented a number of other innovative ideas: Owners of Euro-4 Diesels who are prepared to give up their car for a year could receive an annual season ticket for the public transport system, vouchers for car sharing, vouchers for taxi trips and a Bahncard 50 which offers a 50% price reduction on on long distance rail trips. I think many people would be tempted to hand their car papers in for a year for an offer like that. The town council is also working on ways to make public transport more attractive.


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