Germany is considering making public transport free in five cities in a bid to tackle illegal levels of air pollution from road transport.
It is one of nine countries under pressure from the European Union to take action after a deadline expired last week. At the end of January ministers from these countries, which include the UK, were called in to see EU environment commissioner Karmenu Vella and given a final chance to present their air quality plans before the start of potential court action.
Buses in Bonn, former capital of West Germany
The Guardian reported that three German ministers including the environment minister Barbara Hendricks told Mr Vella in a letter: ‘We are considering public transport free of charge in order to reduce the number of private cars.’
They added ‘Effectively fighting air pollution without any further unnecessary delays is of the highest priority for Germany.’
The ministers also proposed low emission zones, free public transport to reduce car use, extra incentives for electric cars and technical retrofitting for existing vehicles as long as this is effective and economically feasible, Reuters reported.
They stated that they would test these measures out in five cities - Bonn, Essen, Herrenberg, Reutlingen and Mannheim - before rolling out the most successful measures to all other cities affected by illegal pollution levels.
Last week the UK transport secretary, Chris Grayling, reportedly made comments discouraging people in cities from choosing diesel vehicles.
James Thornton, CEO of campaign group ClientEarth, said: ‘We would be absolutely delighted if the government were to come up with new measures that would tackle this public health crisis but we’d also be very surprised.
‘In January, we took the Government back to court for a third time and nothing they argued in court convinced us that they have a credible plan to bring down air pollution as soon as possible.’
ClientEarth said a judgment in its latest court action against the Government is expected in the coming weeks.