Federal Transport Infrastructure Plan fails its own environmental review

Krautzberger: Much more funding must be redeployed to rail transport

freight trains in a switch yardClick to enlarge
Rail transport has environmental advantages but is nevertheless loud.
Source: Rick Sargeant / Fotolia.com

The draft Federal Transport Infrastructure Plan (FTIP) fails to meet eleven of the twelve targets identified in its own environmental report. According to the outcome of a first analysis by the German Environment Agency (UBA), "the draft unfortunately shows that Germany is far removed from an integrated, multimodal mobility strategy with rigorous environmental goals. The draft FTIP requires urgent revision", said UBA's President Maria Krautzberger, recommending that at least 60 percent of federal funding for the FTIP be invested in railway transport. Only about 42 percent had been allocated previously, with the majority of funding to be invested in building and developing the road network. "The excessive focus of the draft plan on roads effectively perpetuates the unsustainable transport policy of the past years," said Ms Krautzberger.

The modest climate footprint provides the most evident proof: the draft FTIP reflects only 0.5 million tonnes of CO2 net savings per year. “This is far too little to be called ambitious climate protection, in particular considering that the transport sector causes roughly 162 million tonnes of CO2 per year and has hardly reduced its emissions at all since 1990. The measures adopted in the transport sector under the Climate Action Programme 2020 must now finally be implemented in order to reduce CO2 emissions to between 7 and 10 million tonnes per year,“ said Ms Krautzberger. Although railway and waterway projects reduce the transport sectors' CO2 emissions by 1 million tonnes per year, the numerous roads projects consume about one half of the savings made.

According to UBA estimates, a modal shift in the private transport and road freight sectors alone could save an annual 5-10 tonnes of CO2 by 2030 in the framework of an ambitious Federal Transport Infrastructure Plan. This shows that the FTIP plays a critical role in climate protection in the transport sector over the medium and long term. The fine-tuning of the FTIP must therefore accord greater priority to the federal government’s climate change targets.

There are similar problems with regard to land requirements. According to a federal government decision, land take for settlement and transport is to be brought down to only 30 hectares/day by 2020 instead of the current 69 hectares/day. UBA has calculated that the FTIP could therefore only contain a share of 1.9 hectares/day; however, the current draft exceeds that budget by about 50 percent, ultimately claiming about 2.9 hectares/day. UBA proposes the cancellation of 41 of the planned road projects marked as first priority. One of the 22 waterways project should also be eliminated. All of these projects which the UBA has proposed be dropped would involve a large amount of land take, exert a massively negative impact on nature conservation and cause high levels of noise emissions and air pollution.

All the criticism notwithstanding, the UBA also sees some positive developments. "We expressly welcome the increase in the planned investments in structural maintenance," said Ms Krautzberger. "I also welcome the new category of priority projects aiming to eliminate bottlenecks and of real economic benefit, as it does not concern any projects with high environmental impact.” Many of the proposed individual railway projects could help to promote sustainable mobility. “We see the creation of an integrated network for 740-metre freight trains as a very important measure. It will increase the productivity of railway freight transport and reduce its costs”, said Ms Krautzberger. “We will not be able to achieve our climate change goals without the inclusion of railway freight traffic. This is why it should become a first priority project.”

The strategic environmental assessment required by law ensures for the first time the right of every citizen to make comments on the FTIP and accompanying environmental report until 2 May 2016. “I hope that many people will use the opportunity to raise a critical voice about the FTIP – especially as concerns its potential environmental effects. Many of the projects not only put a strain on the environment, they also present health risks.”

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