Germany proposes free public transportation to fight pollution

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The government of Germany is now mulling the idea of making public transportation system use in heavily polluted cities free as a means of reducing emissions and thus improving air quality, Reuters has reported.

'We are considering public transport free of charge in order to reduce the number of private cars, ' the letter said.

"Effectively fighting air pollution without any further unnecessary delays is of the highest priority for Germany", the ministers added.

"In the letter, the authors proposed low emission zones, free public transport to reduce auto use, extra incentives for electric cars, and technical retrofitting for existing vehicles as long as this is effective and economically feasible".

As Germany and eight other European Union members including Spain, France and Italy have missed the 30-January deadline to meet European Union limits on nitrogen dioxide and fine particles, it will be necessary to take action soon. The environment commissioner has given them extra time to meet their targets.

The EU takes air pollution very seriously, which causes 400,000 preventable deaths and incurs $24.7 billion in health spending per year in the bloc. To make matters worse, the Commission reports that some 400,000 Europeans die prematurely due to air pollution, costing the worldwide union €20bn euros ($24.7bn) on healthcare.

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Countries failing to keep up with EU limits may face legal action at the European court of justice, which has the power to punish member states with fines.

Last year, Volkswagen, Daimler and BMW announced a €500 million ($593 million) plan to upgrade more than 5 million newer diesel cars in Germany and offer trade-in rebates on older models.

"The municipalities would have to come us with the proposal of free local public transport, and then we would see if it's feasible". Tickets can be cheaper compared to other major European cities. In Berlin, a single ticket on public transportation costs about $3.50, while a similar one-way trip costs $6.80 in London.

"It's not in the planning phase yet", a spokeswoman with the city of Bonn told DW.

In a bid to tackle air pollution in some of its most important cities, including the capital Berlin, the German government wants to make all public transit free. He says to the German press agency DPA, "I don't know any manufacturer who would be able to deliver the number of electric buses we would need".

"The conclusion would be clear: more carriages, more personnel, and maybe even more tracks and lines would be needed".