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Commentary: When it comes to transport investments, the traffic light is off

... not only for road and rail. Germany's governing coalition finds itself in an unnecessarily crippling stalemate when it comes to discussing the acceleration of infrastructure projects.

After years of austerity politics, in which the black zero in public finances was the top priority, Germany's infrastructure is crumbling. Schools, bridges, railways - pathetic conditions wherever you look. That was the starting position of the traffic light coalition. Then came Russia's war of aggression against Ukraine as an additional challenge. But suddenly things happened very quickly: LNG terminals, for example. ,

But there is hardly anything that seems less urgent than securing the energy supply for the German economy, when there is time for arguments, essentials can be discussed away, even if it is in the coalition agreement, such as the immediate climate protection program; traffic and buildings in particular are lagging behind the ambitious goals. One requirement: the decarbonisation of the energy supply. ,

Where does the money go?

A lot of money is needed for everything together. One could now think that the focus of the debate is where this is supposed to come from. Achim Wambach, President of the Leibniz Center for European Economic Research (ZEW), on the other hand, says: "The biggest brake on investments is - in addition to the lack of skilled workers - the long duration of the planning and approval processes." ,

The Chancellor has therefore proclaimed a "pact for planning, approval and implementation acceleration". Even the term, tongue-twisting for non-bureaucrats, indicates a possibly more problem-oriented than solution-oriented approach. Significantly, however, the dispute is not about how to accelerate, but about what. The course of the front is based on political camps and not on facts.

Are Autobahns progressive when they are new?

The Greens want rail and wind turbines to be accelerated and would still accept the renovation of dilapidated motorway bridges (financial requirement: around ten billion euros). Transport Minister Volker Wissing (FDP) wants to use the left indicator even for new motorway construction projects in order to overtake lengthy environmental assessments - from this the FDP derives the accusation that the Greens are on the brakes instead of accelerating.

, However, not only the Greens find it difficult to reconcile reduced nature conservation in favor of new motorway routes with the immediate climate protection program. After all, the passenger kilometer in a quickly driven (and simply occupied) diesel car emits around ten times as much CO₂ as that in the ICE, even in the electric car it is (because of the not yet particularly green electricity mix) a good four times as much as in the express train.This should not be exploited against the electric car or the car in general, mobility needs all modes of transport - but not in competition, but complementing each other.

Wissing argues that road traffic will increase according to forecasts, traffic jams should be reduced. On the other hand, it can be objected that the minister, whose department experts confirm the greatest need to catch up in terms of CO₂ savings, must consider how he can meet future mobility needs with as few greenhouse gases as possible, instead of being excused by truisms of forecasts. Transformation requires more from political design than answering the requirements "transport performance up, CO₂ emissions" with a solution proposal that apparently wants to accelerate, but in every direction. ,

This neutralizes itself and, in addition to progress, blocks the political discourse - especially with the Greens, who are not so easily accused of lacking elasticity after gas deals with dubious partners, compromises with nuclear power plants and the evacuation of Lützerath. In return, you could push the transport minister, who is late in climate protection, into the next dead end with the unfortunate speed limit discussion .

Blockade and standstill are not only the opposite of mobility, but also of change and transformation. Perhaps politicians need a pact to "accelerate rethinking". The country would benefit.


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