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Innovation as a catalyst for local public transport

Posted: 25 February 2011 | Dr. Peter Ramsauer, Federal Minister of Transport, Building and Urban Development, Germany | No comments yet

Facilitating mobility rather than hampering it – as Germany’s Federal Minister of Transport, this is my basic philosophy. Because being mobile means taking part in social life, economic growth, employment and prosperity.

Local public transport plays a substantial role, since guaranteeing mobility for everyone would not be possible without it. The quality of life in our urban and rural areas is directly related to the quality of local public transport. In Germany, almost 30 million people use local public transport like buses, underground and trams, every day. Public transport is an important alternative to private transport, especially in the agglomerations where the number of households without a car is particularly high.

Facilitating mobility rather than hampering it – as Germany’s Federal Minister of Transport, this is my basic philosophy. Because being mobile means taking part in social life, economic growth, employment and prosperity.Local public transport plays a substantial role, since guaranteeing mobility for everyone would not be possible without it. The quality of life in our urban and rural areas is directly related to the quality of local public transport. In Germany, almost 30 million people use local public transport like buses, underground and trams, every day. Public transport is an important alternative to private transport, especially in the agglomerations where the number of households without a car is particularly high.

Facilitating mobility rather than hampering it – as Germany’s Federal Minister of Transport, this is my basic philosophy. Because being mobile means taking part in social life, economic growth, employment and prosperity.

Local public transport plays a substantial role, since guaranteeing mobility for everyone would not be possible without it. The quality of life in our urban and rural areas is directly related to the quality of local public transport. In Germany, almost 30 million people use local public transport like buses, underground and trams, every day. Public transport is an important alternative to private transport, especially in the agglomerations where the number of households without a car is particularly high.

Strengthening local public transport is therefore one of the Federal Government’s priorities. Since Germany is a federal republic, the responsibility for the planning, set-up, organisation and funding of local public transport lies with the federal states and local authorities. Nevertheless, the Federal Government provides substantial financial assistance for it.

Guaranteeing a broad range of local public transport services, covering the entire country, is of particular importance for transport policy in Germany and will be of even greater importance in the future. One of the main reasons for this is demographic change. The age structure of our society is rapidly changing. It is particularly the elderly who have to rely on local public transport for their mobility and they are using it increasingly.

Strengthening local public transport, a particularly environmentally friendly mode of transport, also plays a key role in the light of climate change and environmental pollution. Germany is mainly focusing on innovation. As an example, I would like to mention drivetrain technologies which are low in energy consumption or noise-reducing technologies in the railway sector.

Another main objective is to make local public transport more user-friendly and more attractive. I am convinced: the simpler public transport is to use, the more people will use it. ‘Electronic ticketing’ must also be mentioned in this context.

E-ticketing is an innovation which has the potential to increase user friendliness and thus make local public transport more popular. We are all aware of the difficulties people often face when buying a ticket. A lack of staff on site, ticket machines that are either out of service or too complicated to use, a pricing system that cannot be easily understood or just simply no change at hand. It is entirely understandable that such experiences discourage people from using local public transport.

This situation can be remedied by electronic ticketing: by using a smartcard, customers are charged the correct fare for their journey, they can pay without using cash and they usually receive a discount compared with a single ticket. All this is already working well in pilot projects.

Standardisation – prerequisite for a successful system

Our aim is to develop e-ticketing for local public transport in a way that it can be applied nationwide. Berlin, Dresden, Hamburg and the Rhine-Main area are already preparing its introduction. The next step will be to interlink the regions where e-ticketing is applied, so that passengers can use their smartcard for every bus, tram or subway, everywhere in Germany, without having to worry about the various pricing systems.

This requires a minimum technical compatibility between the different systems. The Association of German Transport Companies (VDV) has developed the relevant standard with the support of the Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology. The Federal Ministry of Transport, Building and Urban Development has so far invested €13 million in promoting the implementation and introduction of a nationwide electronic ‘ticket’. It will support the process of coordination between the federal states.

The introduction of an e-ticket will make local public transport more attractive, encourage new customers and thus enhance its role, which is necessary. With regard to its efficiency reserves, local public transport must increase its importance again – for saving energy, reducing emissions and tackling the congestion that exists on many of our roads.

A successful introduction of such a system will also be noticed beyond our national borders and open up new export opportunities for Germany as a location for technology. My Ministry and I will offer our support wherever possible. Because: transport policy is always also economic policy!

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